MasterCard International Inc. announced this week in Zurich that it has renewed its World Cup soccer tournament sponsorship through the 2002 finals in Japan and Korea, and has taken an option for 2006.

The four-year commitment, which is expected to cost $140 million in rights fees and associated advertising and promotions, makes MasterCard the official World Cup brand for all types of payment cards.

MasterCard in turn can use the World Cup logo on its products and in advertising and merchandising.

For MasterCard, soccer anchors an extensive sports marketing portfolio much as the Olympic Games do for Visa. MasterCard affiliate Europay International has also renewed the Eurocard-MasterCard sponsorship of the European nations' championship, Euro 2000.

The familiar ringed logo will be visible at 14 tournaments sponsored by the international football governing body, FIFA, through 2002.

FIFA president Joseph "Sepp" Blatter said MasterCard's efforts in support of the World Cup have been "exemplary" and "mutually beneficial" for the two organizations.

MasterCard's aim is to "leverage the world's premier sporting event," said Robert W. Selander, president of Purchase, N.Y.-based MasterCard, as well as to exploit a cumulative television audience exceeding 50 billion for 400 World Cup qualifying and finals matches.

He said 356 member institutions in 71 countries participated in the 1998 World Cup sponsorship. In the four-year buildup, 53 issued 1.5 million special World Cup MasterCards, a 50% increase from the 1994 cycle.

MasterCard established itself as a top-level sponsor for the 1994 finals in the United States and built on that for France '98.

It will continue to rely on Brazilian soccer legend Pele as a spokesman, extending through 2002 a relationship dating from 1991.

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