Where VANOC got it wrong by going exclusively with Visa

In the scope of the 2010 winter games coming to Vancouver in just over a week now, there are many issues that people are discussing that are probably much more impacting to the large scope of what would be considered important. There’s part of me that feels like the following topic is one that is frustrating enough to me to give it a little bit of attention.

2010 Olympics Team Canada Retail Apparel Launch

VANOC made the choice long ago as to who would be the official credit card in 2010. This went to Visa, who has a long history of being a supporter of the Olympics.

What this basically means is that VANOC got a large sum of money from Visa to use the “official” tag within their brand as well as accompanying images and logos of the 2010 games. This is your standard deal when it comes to sponsorship, and that money from Visa has a hand in making this whole thing actually happen, making this contract a good one for VANOC in the long run.

This is where my knowledge of the contract for being an official sponsor breaks down, but where my aggravation resides in their mutual agreement comes from a consumer’s perspective, not to mention as a local resident in Vancouver.

2010 Olympics Team Canada Retail Apparel Launch

Aside from all of the logos, ads, and commercials you see on TV about Visa being this official sponsor of the games, the other aspect of this deal comes in when you visit the official store of the games at The Bay in downtown Vancouver.

Rebecca and I have made our way down to the store a handful of times. Yes, we’ve bought a variety of things for ourselves and as gifts for family members around the holiday season.

What gets me extremely frustrated is the fact that only Visa debit and credit cards are accepted as payment when you purchase anything from the official, VANOC store.

Why does this matter? Well, as a local resident to Vancouver, the people who are most effected by the overall cost of these games, I cannot use the debit card from my bank to purchase any items from the official store. While cash is also accepted, you’re basically hooped if you think that you can approach the checkout with plenty of money to spend from your bank account.

2010 Olympics Team Canada Retail Apparel Launch

Rewind to when it was Christmas time. I wandered in there a few times to do some window shopping, but as someone who doesn’t possess anything Visa, I couldn’t buy anything unless I walked into the store with a wad of cash in my wallet. During the busiest shopping period of the year, you can almost guarantee that I was not the only one who ran into this problem.

So what do you do? You tell yourself that you’ll come back to the store another time with some cash and purchase whatever it was that you wanted then. But do you actually end up making it back to the store to make said purchase? Why do that when you can pop down to Lululemon or some other store selling something 2010 looking or related item of some sort. And big shocker, you can even use your debit card!

To me, the way the partnership that VANOC established with Visa actually hurts the amount of revenue that could be made at the official store downtown if the way you could pay for their items was opened up. Sure, there are a ton of people already running around the city with all sorts of hoodies, hats, etc. Could you imagine how much more could have moved off the shelves if you could use your debit card from any bank?

Like I said, I’m a local resident of Vancouver. I had money I wanted to give VANOC so I could buy their stuff, pouring more money back into whatever sink hole of a budget these games have ballooned into.

VANOC releases updated balanced budget for 2010 Winter Games

Jan 30, 2009

Vancouver, BC — An updated, balanced operating budget of $1.76 billion, with a contingency of $77 million was released today by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC). The updated budget places a priority on athletes, sporting competitions and the spectator experience at the Games and on television. [vancouver2010.com]

But I couldn’t. It doesn’t make economic sense to me. You have millions of people living in the lower mainland, and when the games are over, we’re the ones left to deal with the aftermath of these games. No matter how amazing, awesome, or lacking they end up being, the price tag is what a lot of locals are worried about.

Like a square peg in a round hole, VANOC makes it tougher on themselves to help make revenue back, no matter how little the profit might be from their official store sales. I had money that I wanted to give them, but this decision of Visa being everywhere VANOC wants them to be, in my opinion, prevents more people from helping that billion dollar price tag.

All of this is outside of any knowledge that I have of cost analysis or profit projections that VANOC, Visa, and people who are generally smarter than I am with it comes to dollars and numbers had with each other. However, I doubt that Visa kicked in any extra money to help out with the costs that have arisen as the games approach. Not that people would rush out to buy more 2010 threads just to help with the overall cost of the games, especially in this economy, but why have just one, single funnel for all the official store profit?

Again, I know there are far more serious issues surrounding these games, but this is a look at one that is less addressed than others. With hope, this can raise issues for future games if not for future business decisions.


12 Replies to “Where VANOC got it wrong by going exclusively with Visa”

  1. Great post, John. You are not alone with this frustration! I can totally understand VISA being the only accepted credit card, but debit card? Ridiculous. I wonder how many people have actually left their items on the counter, never to come back to purchase them with cash.

  2. Haven’t been to the official Vanoc store but are the contents any different from what can be found at a Zellers? I got two sweaters from Zellers (a part of the HBC family) and I know both were paid for with a mastercard.

  3. I”m volunteering at one of the Venues….ATMs are present, but only to use your VISA!!! No Debit. For those visitors who don’t carry cash, get one of those chequing account ViSA’s see if they are accepted. It’s completely ridiculous and I’m glad you [John] posted about it, because really I don’t think a lot of people know.

  4. This is *very* interesting. The policy seems inconvenient and not incredibly customer-focused to me.

    But I’m guessing it’s written in a business deal somewhere. Money talks. And Visa has more than you… and the rest of us consumers.

    At least, that’s the horse VANOC is betting on.

  5. Interesting article. I wonder if they could ever determine the estimated loss of revenue caused by limiting the transaction choices to Visa and cash.

    On the other hand (to play the Devil’s Advocate), does only allowing credit cards trick people into spending more? Although someone may have only $50 of cash in their wallet, they may also have $3,000 credit on their Visa… Suddenly they go from buying one Quatchi, to ten Quatchi’s.

  6. It would be interesting to compare the numbers between the VISA bid and potential revenue lost from customers.

    For myself, this doesn’t bother me too much because I’m okay with the fact that VISA was a big sponsor for the Olympics, and it’s always been like this for big events like this. I think people are being informed that VISA is the only thing accepted at the Games and can prepare accordingly.

    It’s a bit of a hassle, but the same argument could be made about Coke vs. Pepsi… would the games have sold more beverages if they supplied both Coke and Pepsi? Probably… as people would buy what they liked rather than what they were forced into. But still, the big sponsors like Coke pay for exclusivity and it’s this money in advance that keeps the Games floated (to some degree).

    Money now vs. money later from consumers?

  7. @John While it’s completely understandable that a major sponsor would want sole rights and certain privileges, I can see where you’re coming from.

    @VancityAllie This is a good point but you can leave the Olympic Superstore and grab a Pepsi down the street within 45 seconds. However, you probably can’t even apply and receive a VISA card within 45 days.

    I say go with cash… even if you have to pocket $250 to go purchase a TEAM USA scarf 😉

  8. @Janis: Thanks! And that’s my entire point. Credit cards is one thing, but the Visa debit card only is the nails on the chalkboard for me.

    @will: I think Zellers has Team Canada stuff, but the official VANOC store downtown has all the exclusive 2010 threads, cowbells, gloves, etc.

    @Jewels: If you’re seeing this frustration during the games, certainly let us know on Twitter!

    @Neil: Certainly it’s a business deal done behind closed doors, but I thought it’s worth noting from a consumer’s perspective. If anything, it’s taught me exactly what not to do if I were in a decision making position in the future.

    @Matt: I don’t doubt the plastic driving a purchaser to overspend. We live in a buy-now-pay-later society (albeit somewhat in a recession in the midst of this economy), so that makes sense for sure.

    @Allie: I’m not arguing the validity of Visa being a sponsor. It’s as Janis said above; why should this prevent us from using our debit cards? I can buy a soda, of whoever owns the exclusivity, in a matter of seconds, usually costing me less than ten bucks, depending on how much I’m getting hosed on the overprice. But my bank doesn’t offer Visa debit cards, so now I have to apply for their credit card, wait a few weeks to get approved, receive it in the mail, activate it, buy stuff, deal with the interest rates, and so on. Of course, as a landed immigrant in Canada, this gets even tougher for me, and there are quite a few of us in the lower mainland. It makes me more accepting of buying this “off-official” gear that VANOC sees no revenue from and just shakes the naughty finger at.

  9. I agree with what you have written here, John. You’re exactly right about the customer. Perhaps I should have used the word “unfortunately” in my earlier comment.

    I also agree with the comments about the bid vs. the total sales lost. It’s next to impossible–we don’t know how much extra they paid for exclusivity, for example–but I think it could be part of a very interesting case study.

    Finally, this might be an IOC decision and out of VANOC’s control. (See for details.) Does anyone know for sure?

  10. As part of sponsorship, they can sell individual rights, couldn’t they? They could have given Visa the “Official Sponsor of VANOC” advertising rights, allowed Visa to advertise and use the logo everywhere, but also allowed other cards in the stores (not sold that specific right). With all of the people that will be going through Vancouver, and all that they will be spending, you would think that they would lose out on more than Visa would pay.

    Seems pretty dumb to me.

  11. This whole visa being the only accepted form of payment bs is actually a way for visa to fully monopolize on the Vancouver 2010 Olympics! I’m not entirely sure, but isn’t corporate monopoly in Canada illegal!? If this is the case, a class-action suit should be taken against VANOC and VISA to make them pay for the pain, suffering, embarrassment and other hardships that people without visa cards have endured.

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