A corporate slogan, in this case “it’s everywhere you want to be,” may never have been more literally true than it was last weekend when Visa was in Phoenix at Super Bowl XLIX. After all who wouldn’t have wanteded to be there in person to watch Tom Brady get his third MVP title, red pickup (which he gave to Malcolm Butler) and fourth Super Bowl ring, Bill Belichick get his fourth Super Bowl win and Pete Carroll steal Grady Little’s crown for “Worst Coaching Decision In a Big Game?”
However, while the big show on the field was certainly not lacking for drama (MPD CEO Karen Webster has only recently stopped hyperventilating after the last 50 seconds of the game), a bigger show with longer lasting effects on how people buy and how merchants try to persuade consumers to shop was actually unfolding on the ground in the NFL Shop at the NFL Experience.
Around the corner from gridiron at the University of Arizona, Apple Pay was on display. However, using Apple Pay was more than just an option, it was a choice Visa was actively encouraging consumers to make by offering a $5 discount coupon to anyone who completed an Apple Pay Demo. For those who either loaded a Visa card into their own wallet or demonstrated that they already had one loaded in, Visa was handing out $10.
“We were very excited about the opportunity with Apple Pay on the ground at the NFL Shop at the NFL Experience,” Director, Global Brand & Product Communications Andrew Gerlt told PYMNTS in an email."The response was overwhelmingly positive – and we had current and former NFL players stop by to help demo and spend time with consumers throughout the week."
Among those pros appearing, both at NFL experience and in a series of YouTube videos featuring NFL stars using Apple Pay, was Panther tight end Greg Olsen.
That in-person “pay like a pro” campaign was supported online on YouTube, and on mobile with a series of player tweets.
The event was further pushed for online viewers looking for content by having the professional footballers who were demoing Apple Pay for the crowd share their Super Bowl predictions.
For the record, all the players who didn’t say it was too close to call favored the Patriots as winners. The most prescient mobile payments NFL spokesmodel was Greg Olsen from the Panthers (pictured in the above video). He called the game for the Patriots and also noted: “It's always a safe bet for Brady."
And while betting on Tom Brady to take down Super Bowl MVP is probably a safe bet - especially in retrospect, since he actually won it - Visa’s approach to Super Bowl XLIX and its push to bring Apple Pay to the masses represents a different type of bet.
Visa may have been “everywhere you want to be during the Super Bowl” - in display at the NFL shop, on YouTube, on Twitter and very prominently displayed during the halftime show that they helped make shoppable - but they weren’t where large mega-corporations have historically been found during the big game, on the air with $9 million per minute commercials.
And Visa wasn’t alone in eschewing the most expensive airwaves - it is in fact part of a growing trend. GE ran an existing spot during the game pre-game show and Monster.com bypassed television entirely for a social media campaign that began immediately after the game with a spoof tweet congratulating Seattle and link to its job search service for a new social media manager.
Visa has been an NFL sponsor for 20 years but hasn’t advertised directly during the big game in a decade. Visa still sees the Super Bowl as a tremendous opportunity to connect consumers and businesses - or services like Apple Pay this year - during the big game. However, as the consumers are evolving, Visa is evolving how best to leverage the Super Bowl.
"Visa's league and team sponsorships provide a wide range of benefits, including access to the Super Bowl, the NFL Pro Bowl and the NFL Draft, to connect with Visa cardholders and drive value for financial institution clients, merchant partners and shareholders," said Chris Curtin, chief brand and innovation marketing officer at Visa.
So did the pairing of the Super Bowl with Apple Pay score a touchdown for Visa in 2015? According to Visa’s numbers, it did fairly well. It helped, of course, that there was higher than average iPhone 6 penetration on hand at the Super Bowl this year - Visa noted that in the NFL shop 35 percent to 40 percent of consumers were carrying around Apple’s newest phone. A quarter of the users they encountered were willing to put a Visa on their phone and took the $10 dollar coupon, though the majority of 75 percent stuck with the $5 card they got for demoing the service. All in all, according to Visa, about 15,000 people came in to sample Apple Pay during the event.
More than the numbers, however, Visa was most heartened by the clearly engaged consumers using the product. Visa found that once consumers saw how simple Apple Pay was to use, it was a fairly instant conversion to get shoppers enrolled in the program. It probably didn’t hurt that those who conducted a demo or loaded a card had access to a dedicated line for Visa/AP customers. Visa reports that more than a way to beat the lines, it also gave shoppers confidence in using their Apple Pay, as brand ambassadors walked them through their first real purchase at the register.
Plus, those brand ambassadors - The NFL players - really seemed to be having a good time.