Women's Sport: In a significant move, VISA extends athletes sponsorship to 2021

Simone Biles

In a significant move in a time of need for most Olympic and paralympic hopefuls, Visa has announced that they are to extend their sponsorship for their global roster of athletes to 2021 after the IOC postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics to summer 2021.

Team Visa scheme features 96 athletes across 27 sports, including soccer star Megan Rapinoe, gymnast Simone Biles — a quadruple gold medalist at the Rio de Janeiro Games — and two-time defending 800-meter Olympic champion David Rudisha.

In a first of it's kind by a major sponsor like Visa to make this statement in time, brands, publishers and major companies are jumping ship during this pandemic coronavirus hiatus.

"We elected to stand behind our roster of Team Visa athletes and make sure they knew affirmatively we were planning to do so and that we were going to offer to extend our relationship with them into 2021," Chris Curtin, Visa's chief brand and innovation marketing officer, told The Associated Press.

"They're all dealing with how do they maintain their training schedules, discipline and focus at the same time they're dealing with what's happening with their families and their loved ones. One thing that we wanted to do as Visa was to take one potential point of ambiguity and maybe concern off their plates because there should be none." 

With the idea of the Olympics been staged in the spring of 2021, it looks like it will be keeping the same dates for next summer - aiming for the games to kick start on July 24 in Tokyo.

"I'm crossing fingers for all sorts of reasons, well beyond just the games coming back, that it reflects a reinvigorated marketplace and a reinvigorated sense of humanity and a renewed kind of enthusiasm about life," Curtin said.

"We have always been very bullish that this is going to be a special and important Olympics. But because of COVID-19, I think that's now ramped up ten times."

Visa is one of the major sponsors for Tokyo Olympics and plans for this summer was already on the way before the postponement. As Visa goes back to the drawing board to start their marketing campaign for 2021, some athletes showed their gratitude to the support Visa has shown them during these times. 

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"These are unprecedented times for all of us," said Adam Peaty, the British swimmer who won 100-meter breaststroke gold four years ago in Rio, "but having Visa's support makes these times of adversity quite a bit easier."

Visa is currently filming their own messages promoting hand washing and social distancing to help with the push to encourage people to stay home, be safe and wash their hands during these times.

The new coronavirus has caused a global pandemic that has infected more than 680,000 worldwide and global deaths from the virus has surpassed 30,000, with more than 10,000 of those in Italy.

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