Seeing How Payments Turn Into Dollars
By Adam Grossman
Could your glasses pay for themselves? In a manner of speaking, the World Surf League (WSL) and Visa would say yes. As part of the credit card company’s new official partnership with WSL’s Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast (the first stop on the WSL Championship Tour), Visa is piloting payment-enabled sun glasses that “feature contactless payment capability and [eliminate] the need to carry cash or cards on the beach.”
This partnership is beneficial to both the WSL and Visa in several ways. First, it does potentially solve a problem that any beach goer (this author included) has faced when going to the beach. It can be difficult to carry around a wallet in a bathing suit without worrying about it getting it wet and / or possibly damaging one’s credit card(s). Eliminating much of the need for a wallet with something most people need on the beach anyway (sunglasses) elegantly solves this problem.
Second, this partnership does generate positive brand awareness and brand perception for both WSL and Visa. For the WSL, increasing brand awareness in an incredibly crowded sports marketplace is critical. This differentiated partnership demonstrates to companies and fans the unique ways the WSL activates its corporate partnerships. As an increasing number of younger consumers test out novel payment methods (think Venmo or Bitcoin), the use of more traditional credit cards could decline in the future. Visa partnering with the WSL and using novel technology should attract significant interest from the sport’s core demographic to the company.
What is arguably the most interesting part about this partnership, however, is how it effectively leverages new technology to drive new revenue for a corporate partner. It is clear that the growth of sports technology has been massive, particularly over the last five years. What is less clear is how to monetize technology, particularly when it comes to wearables. Technology-enabled glasses have been a focus for companies both inside and outside of the sports industry. Google Glass became an infamous flop for the search engine giant while Snap Inc. has made a bet that its potential new glasses will entice advertisers using its unique filters.
The WSL and Visa, however, have a sure thing when it comes to their glasses partnership and revenue generation. The WSL has provided a way for Visa to either attract new, younger customers or retain customers it already has. Visa makes money by charging a processing payment fee to merchants every time someone uses its products. Glasses make it as easy as possible for someone, particularly younger demographics, to make a payment. A customer just needs to have his / her glasses on when purchasing products. This also creates a switching cost for customers to move to a new payment provider. Why switch to a MasterCard, Venmo, Paypal, or Bitcoin if Visa makes my life easier, particularly when I am at the beach and / or on vacation?
In The Sports Strategist: Developing Leaders for a High Performance Industry, my co-authors discuss how the best possible corporate partnerships deliver value for both the buyer and seller. The WSL and Visa show how new technology can generate new dollars for both sides of a partnership.