Some card companies use sports sponsorships to generate loyalty, but they also are good vehicles to try out new products, according to an analyst.

"The coolest thing about these events is that it's like free market research, where you can spend brand-building money and also use them as an opportunity to unveil your latest and greatest products," said Megan Bramlette, a managing associate at Auriemma Consulting Group. "It's a good way to get some instant feedback on new products."

Visa Inc., for example, has used its FIFA World Cup sponsorship to roll out several products.

Visa in December introduced a prepaid TravelMoney card that people attending the soccer tournament in South Africa can load with rand. Confidence Cambio, a Brazilian currency-exchange company, issues the cards.

In April, Visa and the Mexican financial company Banamex, a unit of Citigroup Inc., launched a national soccer team debit card.

The payments company also launched a prepaid card in December that features the Adidas Jabulani 2010 FIFA World Cup ball, which Visa is distributing to the 5,100 winners of a "Go Brasil" promotion.

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