Consumer/Finance: Visa's contactless app makes big waves

Visa has been a global sponsor of the Olympic Games for more than 25 years. For the first time it chose to use the Games to drive awareness and usage of a product, focusing on its new mobile and contactless technologies.

Visa: Contactless technology
Visa: Contactless technology

Campaign: The Contactless Olympics
Client: Visa Europe
PR team: In-house with support from Hill+Knowlton Strategies and
European agency network
Timescale: January-August 2012
Budget: £65,000



  • To use Visa's Olympic sponsorship to promote the potential of mobile and contactless payments
  • To generate awareness around contactless payments at the Olympics and drive usage during the Games
  • To promote the Visa mobile payment app installed on a limited-edition Samsung Galaxy SIII handset with Lloyds TSB.

Strategy and plan

The campaign focused around creating a 'Contactless Games' experience for pan-European media that would resonate even in markets where contactless was at an early stage of being rolled out.

At the heart of the experience was the Olympic-themed Visa payWave app on the Samsung Galaxy SIII. By being proactive and putting this device into journalists' hands, the aim was to create ambassadors for the new service, as well as to increase the reach and power of the campaign. This was a big change for Visa, which has traditionally taken a more low-key approach to its comms. The Olympic payment app was previewed at the Mobile World Congress 2012. The PR team introduced the concept of the Contactless Games and built relationships with a wide range of media.

Following this, the SIII handset was confirmed as the Olympic payment phone within a week of its global launch. Visa's ambitions for the Games were announced through a series of briefings with key media across Europe, focusing on the contactless infrastructure and the benefits the technology would bring to consumers.

Visa worked alongside partners Samsung and Lloyds TSB to demonstrate the scale of the new payments ecosystem and emphasise the partnerships needed to deliver the future of payments.

The Contactless Games was launched by Visa ambassador Sir Steve Redgrave, who made the first mobile transaction at the Hyde Park Olympic superstore. Following the launch, an intensive nine-country media programme demonstrated the new payment systems.

Measurement and evaluation

During the Games more than 80 media outlets were briefed at 20 different events. This generated 130 articles including Visa's CEO being interviewed on CNN; a significant spread on 'launching the cashless Games' in The Daily Telegraph; and articles in the Financial Times, London Evening Standard, El Pais, Expansion and La Tribune.


UK contactless transactions doubled in the ten weeks before the Games. There were six times the number of contactless transactions during the Games compared with the same period in 2011. Contactless payments at Olympic venues represented ten per cent of all onsite Visa transactions and 20 per cent of all onsite Visa transactions under £20.



Having achieved some great hits in trade and broadsheet titles, as well as broadcast, the team can be confident in claiming it built awareness of the contactless technology and its benefits.

It would be interesting to see how the campaign was mirrored through social channels and if case studies of retailers and consumers were used to supplement the media activity.

There is real potential to build on these foundations to address the fundamental question around adoption.

If comms could help consumers and retailers to experience the benefits of the technology, it would enable Visa to challenge preconceptions around ease of use and security. But to achieve that consumers and retailers must be able to have a dialogue with Visa to address their concerns.

That makes a multichannel approach, covering experiential, social and traditional media relations, ideal. Most importantly, it would help Visa to fend off competitors trying to own this subject with consumers.

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