Flop of the month: heavy-handed PR backfires on MasterCard and House PR

PRWeek news editor Daniel Farey-Jones laments House PR's attempt to 'leverage' sponsorship amplification.

Mastercard: House PR gained attention for the brand-  for the wrong reasons
Mastercard: House PR gained attention for the brand- for the wrong reasons

The unfortunate parallel to Samsung at the Oscars this month was MasterCard and the Brit Awards, as the credit card brand’s new agency House PR got on the wrong side of Telegraph diarist Tim Walker. 

MasterCard’s Brits operation should be a well-oiled machine after 16 years of sponsorship, but it slipped up after trade title Press Gazette claimed that Walker had been asked by the agency to guarantee coverage for its client in return for tickets. A list of conditions made for painful reading, from the ‘suggested’ tweet to the ‘inclusion of MasterCard-branded event night images in post-event piece’. Hacks had a field day and the brand’s ‘priceless surprises’ tagline attracted derision – all on the morning of the Brits. 

House PR’s MD surprisingly justified the approach, before MasterCard condemned any suggestion that attendance at the Brits was a condition of coverage as ‘highly inappropriate’. While it’s never easy to turn sponsorship into earned media, making the media feel ‘owned’ doesn’t help.

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