Visa Inc. is expanding efforts to promote its prepaid card products through sponsorship of the Essence Music Festival that took place in New Orleans over the July 4 weekend.

The magazine's festival featured black artists, such as Usher, Jennifer Hudson, Boyz II Men and Fantasia.

"When we looked at the affinities in the target market, we saw that this group has a passion for music, so this festival sponsorship is a really good connection with that target," Kevin Burke, Visa head of global marketing strategy and marketing for the Americas, told PaymentsSource.

For its general prepaid card marketing and in connection with the festival, the card company used online, outdoor, television and radio advertising that emphasized the benefits of prepaid cards, such as direct deposit and access to electronic payments for online and point of sale shopping, Burke said.

The "Go Open a New World" tag line connects to Visa's overall "More People Go With Visa" marketing campaign.

To support its festival sponsorship, Visa held a contest in which it gave away a VIP trip to the event. Earlier last month, it hosted an instant-win game on Facebook for 28 days.

Consumers had to "like" the Facebook page to play the game, which gave away pairs of Beats Solo headphones, a Sony MP3 player and several MP3 gift cards every day. The contest ended July 3.

Visa also promoted its sponsorship of the festival through multiple Essence channels, including online, print and email communications to the magazine's subscription base.

During the festival, Visa held a daily on-site sweepstakes in which it gave away tickets to Essence-sponsored concerts. Visa and Essence planned to give away $500 for its Diva-On-A-Dime shopping spree give-away. Visa also had representatives on hand to educate attendees about its prepaid products.

Market analysts said it is important to develop trust among unbanked or underbanked consumers, whom prepaid marketers often target.

Visa's decision to sponsor a music event with the magazine should help build such confidence, because Essence is a trusted publication in the black community and music is an integral part of that community, said Leylha Ahuile, senior multicultural analyst at Mintel Comperemedia, who has written reports about ethnic groups and their attitudes about financial services.

"That community feels that Essence speaks to them and understands them, and right there connecting with that elevates the trust factor for Visa," she said.

Forging a tie with a music festival that caters to ethnic groups with many unbanked or underbanked individuals is a good strategy for prepaid card issuers, Ahuile said. "All the elements needed to target this unbanked group are there," she said.

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