Mastercard not closed to tennis sponsorships in India

MELBOURNE: Global payments company Mastercard remains open to the idea of evaluating tennis sponsorships in India despite tournaments have vanished off the calendar due to lack of corporate and government support.

Michael Robichaud, Mastercard senior vice president (Global Sponsorships), though was categorical in stating that someone has to approach them with an idea or project, which would also be relevant to them.

"We are open to evaluate it," Robichaud told PTI in an interaction.

"India is a very important market to us and the community is extremely passionate about sports, entertainment and in particular movies. We have started with sponsorships in the film and entertainment space with Yash Raj Films, one of the biggest film production and distribution companies, and also Bollywood superstar Irrfan Khan.

"That said, we are definitely open to evaluate sports sponsorship in India and it has to be relevant to our target audience, makes investment sense in terms of cost-benefits and achieve the right impact in helping us deliver on the promise of priceless," he said.

"We had worked on it a couple of years ago but maybe it did not work out. Someone has to approach us, whether it is individual or tournament," he added.

India last year hosted only two ATP Challenger titles and almost lost its only ATP250 event before MSLTA joined hands with the Maharashtra government to keep the IMG owned event in the country.

The AITA has expressed inability to raise sponsors and the government had also made it clear that they won't fund tournaments since it was responsibility of the national Federation.

In its second year of sponsoring the Australian Open, Mastercard's prime focus on making this year the "happiest slam to date". Sarah Pike, vice president (Marketing and Communication) says that Mastercard transactions are up by 20 per cent at Melbourne Park.

"Sponsorships platform are proving to be a very valuable asset for us in terms of driving brand awareness and cardholder engagement.

"What we have seen from Australian Open over the last 12 months is that our partnership has increased brand awareness by 60 percent and thats been sustained across a year. Our spontaneous consideration has increased by 20 percent.

"There is 30 percent more usage of the card which means for transactions," said Pike.

To enhance fan experience this year, they have established a Mastercard Beach Club, where fans can rub shoulders with legendary players.

"We want to make happy Slam happier. At the club fans can get to see some legends and enjoy tennis from poolside. Not only this, our card holders would not have to stand in queues to get their food. They can select their food from our App 'served' and get it from a separate lane after getting the notification is ready."

Pike also revealed that they are working for causes such as donation of eight million meals at schools in poor countries while they aim to touch the 100 million mark.

She also said they have supported 2.2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan with their electric food voucher programme.