Building on its social media foray around the 2010 Vancouver Games, Visa Inc. is leveraging the ‘12 London Games with its first social media-centric global marketing campaign.

The Go World campaign encourages consumers to support athletes by submitting a virtual cheer on Visa’s Facebook page, YouTube channel and other online platforms. The company is running the campaign in more than 70 countries.

Visa launched the Go World campaign in the U.S. for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and rolled it out globally prior to the 2010 Vancouver Games.

IEG SR spoke with Kevin Burke, Visa CMO, about the new iteration of the Go World campaign, Visa’s growing focus on sponsorship measurement, lessons learned from the Vancouver Games and other topics.

Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.

IEG SR: Visa is a long-time sponsor of the IOC TOP worldwide Olympic program. What’s the thinking behind the partnership?

Burke: We have sponsored the Olympics for 25 years because it drives our business. The association helps increase brand equity, it helps merchants and financial institutions acquire new customers, and it creates opportunities to get consumers to prefer Visa over other payment brands.

IEG SR: Visa became a publically-traded company in 2008. Has the shift from a membership-based organization to a public company had any impact on how Visa approaches and uses sponsorship?

Burke: What has evolved over the last four years is the way we evaluate what the Olympic association offers. We’re more rigorous than in years past. Much of that is due to the fact that we have a broader set of stakeholders that we’re accountable to.

We also have more tools at our disposal that have helped us better measure the impact of the sponsorship on our brand and our clients’ business.

IEG SR: Did the transition into a publically-traded company impact how Visa activates sponsorship?  

Burke: Many years ago we were a collection of associations. Now we’re a global company. What’s different is that we use activation as a global platform in more than 70 countries. That has allowed us to optimize activation on a global level and achieve better results.

Our marketing platform lets us cross multiple geographies so that we get a nice balance between global efficiencies and local relevance.

IEG SR: Visa ran the Go World campaign around the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Were there any lessons learned in terms of leveraging sponsorship with social media?

Burke: In Beijing we did more with digital marketing and less with social. Vancouver is where we really started to experiment with social. The use of social was still at an early stage. It was mainly about generating views on YouTube.

The 2012 Go World campaign is much more ambitious. In the past we used social media as an add-on to an integrated marketing campaign. For London we started with social. Everything starts and ends with social in mind.

IEG SR: Any lessons learned from Vancouver as it applies to social?

Burke: Two things: currency and relevancy. We launched a real-time communication component based on what was happening during the games. That elicited a lot of consumer engagement.

The other lesson learned is relevancy. That’s all about delivering a message to consumers when they care most about an event, or when they’re in an Olympic frame of mind. Those two efforts enjoyed a high response rate.

IEG SR: Can you share any other success stories from Vancouver?

Burke: We were able to deliver double-digit growth in claimed usage of Visa products and brand equity. That included how consumers felt about the Visa brand versus other payment brands and their preference for Visa over other means of payment.

Those are very tangible results in terms of the efficacy of the sponsorship.

IEG SR: Visa in March brought on Ricardo Fort as head of global sponsorship marketing, a new position. Tell me about that.

Burke: We brought on Ricardo because of his diverse experience. He has worked with properties his entire career, and he heads our sponsorship group.

We have a broad group of people that are responsible for managing properties, sponsorship activation, operations and hospitality. Operations are critical. We need to ensure that we deliver the same quality Visa experience that consumers around the world have grown to expect. Hospitality also is important so that consumers and clients can experience events in a meaningful way.