B-M beats three to win Visa International brief

Visa International has hired Burson-Marsteller to handle its corporate reputation and sponsorships globally, only months before the Olympics, which it is sponsoring.

Incumbent agency GCI did not repitch. The choice came down to four agencies: B-M, Ketchum, Fleishman-Hillard and Ruder Finn.

Visa, a main sponsor of the Athens Olympics and the Rugby World Cup, began the review from San Francisco in October (PRWeek, 30 October). Visa International executive vice-president of brand management and corporate relations John Elkins decided to consolidate the global PR agency structure in one firm. The account is worth more than £750,000.

B-M has worked for the past year alongside GCI on a separate reputation management brief.

B-M’s work on reputation issues will continue, with its London office handling the bulk of public affairs and stakeholder relations work.

The technology marketing side of the remit will be run from San Francisco, an important element because the company is aiming to position itself as a technology firm rather than as a credit card provider.

Visa is keen to highlight the amount of banking and accounting systems it provides to business and government. Part of this will be achieved by PR surrounding its sport event sponsorship.

The company has retained B-M globally for three years, with the account to be led in the UK by London MD Gavin Grant.

Visa’s image has been threatened by its associations with confusing, expensive interest rates, and the issue of payment by card users for online pornography.

Last year, Visa made a £1.2bn out-of-court settlement after Wal-Mart led a group of retailers to claim the company attempted to monopolise the legally defined market for debit cards.

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