Visa Inc., a sponsor for the 2010 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, last week launched the Visa Match Planner, a social media application that enables users to create customizable World Cup viewing schedules to share with friends on social networking channels such as Facebook.

The application is the latest extension of Visa’s FIFA World Cup global marketing campaign called “Go Fans,” which also includes print, television, outdoor advertising, merchant promotions in host country South Africa, and Visa card-use promotions. The tournament will be held this June and July.

The Match Planner is available in four languages–English, Japanese, Spanish and Portuguese–and is customized for each of the 32 World Cup-qualifying countries. The Match Planner enables users to organize match-viewing parties at home or in bars, chat with friends online, track scores and standings, and receive exclusive Visa offers from merchants such as the FIFA Official Store on FIFA.com.

Companies can use social media to help change consumer habits, notes Jennifer Bazante, Visa head of global brand marketing. “It’s no longer about traditional media, and it’s important to take a more multimedia approach to deliver a message,” she says.

Visa sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup enables the card brand to tap into one of the most talked-about sporting events on the planet. “Fans love to talk about teams,” and the Match Planner gives them a way to communicate that with friends online, says Bazante.

The application is one example of how the “Go Fans” campaign seeks to enhance fans’ FIFA World Cup experience, says Bazante. The campaign, which celebrates soccer’s popularity in each local market, launched in Latin America in 2009 and globally in February 2010.

The campaign reinforces the ways the card brand enables fans to express their soccer support by offering its products as an easier way to pay for goods and services, Visa says. Visa developed “Go Fans” to connect with soccer fans worldwide and to drive preference for and use of Visa products, to promote Visa’s sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in June and July, and to reinforce the ways Visa enhances soccer fans’ World Cup experience.

More than 90 markets worldwide are using Visa FIFA-themed marketing, and more than 500 financial institutions and merchants are participating in advertising, customized promotions, point-of-sale signage and direct mail supporting the Visa FIFA sponsorship effort.

Visa did not provide any data on how the campaign will affect issuers or acquirers and did not provide specific goals for increased card use. However, Visa reported that spending on Visa cards by visitors at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games was more than $115 million. Like the Olympic Games in February, Visa will be the only card accepted at the FIFA World Cup venues in South Africa.

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