INTERNATIONAL: Visa EU recruits Ikon to bolster Games work

ATHENS: Visa's European arm has appointed its first ever agency in Greece to help leverage the group's sponsorship of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Visa EU turned to Greek agency Ikon Porter Novelli to kick-start a communications plan supporting its sponsorship of the main Olympics event and ParaOlympics, both to be held in Athens.

Ikon won the brief after a five-way pitch and will report to Visa EU senior vice-president of corporate communications Fiona Wilkinson.

The group has not yet retained an agency in Greece, using The PR Team on an ad hoc basis only via its Greek arm Visa Hellas.

Visa corporate communications senior manager Roz Barder said: 'With the huge importance of the Olympic Games taking place in the region, and as we are a top five sponsor of the games, it was felt we needed to take an agency on.'

Ikon MD Elena Savva and account manager Elli Giokeza will head the work.

News of the win coincides with results of a review of Visa's external PR support across Germany.

Incumbent of over six years Burson-Marsteller lost out in the re-pitch to Cohn & Wolfe, which already works for Visa in Italy.

B-M was invited to take part in the four-strong pitch, which began two months ago.

'We've worked with B-M for a number of years, but our strategy is changing and we are looking for a dynamic new approach,' said Barder.

She added the agency will work on PR surrounding a number of key issues in the European market: 'Across Europe we are migrating from magnetic strip cards to chip cards and the introduction of secure e-commerce system Verified by Visa.'

Visa's European roster also includes Fishburn-Hedges in the UK, B-M in France, Weber Shandwick in Spain and Accord in Turkey.

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