Mastercard evolves 'Priceless' from brand to experiential marketing

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 12 January 2018
Mastercard is investing more in sponsorship and brand ambassadors, such as Lleyton Hewitt and Mitchell Starc, to create more 'priceless' opportunities.

Many will remember 1997 as the year that Princess Diana died in a car accident, Steve Jobs returned to Apple and Eastside rapper the Notorious BIG was killed in a drive-by shooting.

Another event that may have lingered in the memory bank is that Mastercard released its 'Priceless' advertising campaign – featuring one of the most enduring and memorable slogans to hit our TV screens.

For the past 20 years in 125 countries and 53 languages, viewers have been consistently reminded that ‘there are some things money can't buy, but for everything else there's Mastercard’. Below is the original Priceless ad from 1997.

This year Mastercard plans to evolve the campaign further into the experiential space, recently becoming a sponsor of the cricket and upping the ante in tennis.

The aim is to provide more ‘priceless’ moments and experiences for consumers that then get shared on social media feeds and through word of mouth - much like Nova Entertainment's Red Room events strategy, giving listeners free access to top acts in intimate locations and encouraging them to share via social channels.

Although Mastercard and rival Visa dominate the payments sector, rivals like PayPal, Apple Pay and new fintech startup AfterPay, as well as advances in digital payment technology, mean that the brands cannot afford to rest on their marketshare laurels.

See: Netflix taps experiential marketing for Stranger Things debut

Experiential marketing provides consumers with more reasons to stick with Mastercard in a period of greater competition and technological disruption.

And it appears to be working, Mastercard reporter strong Q3 revenue growth of 17% to US $3.4 billion, which Mastercard president and CEO Ajay Banga says “reflect a continued momentum in strengthening and extending relationships with our partners and customers”.


Mastercard is using new technology to improve the consumer payment experience.

Experiences matter to ‘selfie generation’

The move into experiential means less focus on those iconic TV ads, but Mastercard is not doing away with television altogether; it has just released a new TVC around the Australian Open and says it views TV as an important brand platform.

Rooted in emotion and experiences, Priceless cleverly seems to leverage a universal truth – that experiences matter more than money – to subtly promote a brand that sells payment technology.

“I think it’s fair to say that line…as well as ‘priceless’ has entered (our) vernacular," Mastercard Australia head of marketing Sarah Pike says. "There are so many memes and various things that we see today that all hark back to that original campaign from the US in 1997.

“Priceless was founded on the core insight that experiences matter more than things and one of the reasons why it has had such longevity is because it has stayed relevant across the last 20 years. With today’s selfie generation, it’s probably even more relevant today than it was in the late 1990s.

“As we have re-energised Priceless over the past three years, that brand value has doubled over the last five years.”

Last year Mastercard was ranked the 71st most powerful global brand with a brand value of US $6.5 billion.

To keep the campaign relevant, Mastercard has evolved it over time, adopting changing consumer media habits and technology.

Although the Priceless slogan has remained consistent, the focus has shifted from observing experiences to creating them.

“Today we get consumers to co-create priceless experiences with us and make those special moments in their lives even more special,” Pike explains. “What that means is our consumers become brand ambassadors themselves because they talk about priceless experiences that they have access to on social media and digital.

“Priceless has moved on from being a brand platform to an experiential based marketing platform.” 

To illustrate the point, AdNews and a group of journalists were invited by Mastercard to spend a day at the Sydney test match in their corporate box.

During the day Mastercard presented two surprises: Rockpool Group founder and super chef Neil Perry provided guests with a cooking lesson – a delightful prawn and mango salad – and former Australian batsman Michael Hussey did a meet and greet to share his thoughts about the game and some old stories.

Both ‘priceless’ surprises were unexpected and well received, with at least one reporter sharing the moment on a social media feed.

neil-perry-2.jpg Mastercard treated journalists and guests to a 'priceless' moment
with Rockpool founder and chef Neil Perry.

The Priceless pillars

Mastercard’s marketing activities are organised into four key pillars – Priceless Cities, Priceless Surprises, Priceless Causes and Priceless Specials.

Priceless cities provides cardholders access to purchase experiences that are unique to 45 different cities.

In Sydney, this has included a kids’ cooking class with Neil Perry, breakfast with Santa at the QVB and Champagne tasting at the Opera House.

Priceless surprises offers cardholders a range of impromptu surprises, such as free song downloads, seat upgrades at events and celebrity meet and greets.

Priceless causes allow cardholders to make donations to charity, including a target to donate 100 million school lunches through the UN’s World Food Program.

Priceless specials, which will launch in Australia later this year, is a rewards programme that provides cardholders offers and discounts at selected retailers.

mastercard-tennis.jpgMastercard is upping the ante in its sponsorship of tennis this year. 

The importance of sponsorship

To fulfil its priceless moments strategy, Mastercard has invested heavily in sponsorship, covering sport, music, culinary, fashion, retail, philanthropy and entertainment. Around the world this includes 75 partnerships with 65,000 assets.

“We are always ‘on’ through sponsorships and experiences,” Pike says. “Rather than just running generic above the line campaigns, we deliver experiential-based marketing activities that really help us connect with our cardholders and consumers.”

In Australia, Mastercard has partnerships with Cricket Australia, Tennis Australia, Red Bull, Event Cinemas, Rockpool Group, Sydney Opera House and Ticketek.

Aside from providing plenty of experiential fodder, sponsorship of major events provides Mastercard with several brand benefits.

Pike says that last year’s Australian Open campaign increased consumers top of mind awareness by 60% and consideration by 20%.

“It’s a really good way for us to drive reach and engagement with cardholders,” Pike says. “It’s great for the brand and was also sustained throughout the year, not just in January.”

Next week, Mastercard hopes to make the Happy Slam even happier with a three-storey Mastercard Beach Club at Melbourne Park that is open to cardholders.

There will also be plenty of ‘priceless’ surprises for fans as the payment technology company aggressively pushes further into the experiential space.

Check out the new Mastercard Australian Open TVC.

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