Aiming to expand its sponsorship repertoire beyond sporting events, Visa U.S.A. has cut deals that make it the "official" card of Broadway theatrical productions.
Visa has signed three-year contracts with four Broadway organizations, which have agreed to designate Visa as the preferred card of various stage events in New York and other tour cities. . The deal makes Visa the only card brand accepted at the annual Tony Awards.
Visa's other sponsorships are with sports organizations: the Olympic Games, the National Football League, National Association of Stock Car Racing, and the Triple Crown horse races.
Visa says it plans to give the Broadway program equal resources and attention as its sports sponsorships. Plans include national advertising, consumer promotions, on-line programs, Visa branding on tickets, and point of sale visibility and prompting. Visa cardholders will be able to buy tickets to certain shows before other people.
Visa said it was looking to add a "major entertainment property" to its roster to tap into new markets.
"Through this program, we're going to help our banks reach new audiences," said Michael Lynch, vice president of event sponsorship marketing at Visa. "Nearly every place a consumer comes into contact with the Broadway industry, we plan to be there."
The organizations involved in the deals are: the League of American Theatres and Producers Inc., a national trade organization for the Broadway industry; the American Theatre Wing, an educational arm of the industry; SFX Entertainment's Broadway Theatre business, a national Broadway producer; and Tony Award Productions.
According to the League of American Theatres and Producers, about 30 million people a year go to see Broadway shows and national touring productions, and box office receipts top $1.3 billion annually.
These numbers pale in comparison to some of Visa's other marketing venues. The Super Bowl alone draws 130 million television viewers in the United States and 800 million worldwide. This year, a 30-second commercial in the broadcast cost $1.6 million, and Visa bought two.
Though Broadway may have less mass-market appeal, the audience tends toward affluence. In New York, 39% of theatergoers have family incomes over $100,000 a year, according to the league.
This demographic should help Visa target wealthy cardholders, who have traditionally relied more on American Express Co., said Steven J. Smith, president of S.J. Smith & Associates, a consulting firm in Scarsdale, N.Y.
"This is more of a family-oriented, maybe older and more upscale market then some of the sporting properties," Mr. Smith said.
Mr. Lynch of Visa said some banks may want to "get behind this property for their premium card business," but that Visa's aim is to "provide added value to Visa cardholders across the country."