Making what it calls its most significant sponsorship commitment, MasterCard International said it has agreed to continue its corporate sponsorship of the World Cup soccer tournament.

Having declared its involvement in the 1994 World Cup a huge success, MasterCard said it will stay closely identified with internationally sanctioned soccer events through the 1998 tournament in France.

MasterCard also will extend its contract with Brazilian soccer legend Pele through 1998. He has served as spokesman since 1992, making personal appearances and participating in other MasterCard advertising and promotional events.

The New York-based card association said it expects to spend about $100 million on its new World Cup package, using the event to build business for member financial institutions around the world.

MasterCard's rivalry with Visa carries over into their affiliations with global sporting events. Visa has been a primary sponsor of the Olympic Games since 1986 and will be heavily involved in the buildup to Atlanta in 1996.

H. Eugene Lockhart, MasterCard president and chief executive officer, described the World Cup as the "perfect vehicle" for achieving card-usage goals and enhancing brand awareness.

"Our objective now is to build upon the equity established during our 1994 sponsorship," he said.

MasterCard's sponsorship will be evident at a number of international football championships sponsored by FIFA, the sport's governing body, prior to the next World Cup. These include the world youth and under-17 championships, the women's world championship in Sweden this year, and the 1996 European championship in England.

Overall, the MasterCard logo will be visible on stadium signs at 289 matches worldwide through 1998, reaching a projected cumulative television viewership of 47.1 billion. This is one advantage of the soccer sponsorship over the Olympics, where corporate advertising is not permitted at event sites.

MasterCard and its Europay affiliate are also sponsoring the European Champions League, a multinational club tournament with 61 matches a season and three billion cumulative viewers.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.