Avoid a #PricelessSurprise: Five lessons from MasterCard's 'tweets for tickets' debacle

As the main sponsor for the Brit Awards 2014, you'd expect MasterCard to want to maximise its association and investment with a social media strategy wrapped around the #PricelessSurprise hashtag.

However, reports emerged yesterday that some journalists were handed an exhaustive schedule of pre-written tweets in exchange for their ticket and transport. 

While MasterCard, through its PR agency House, had correctly indentified the importance of engaging key influencers, in this case the media, the dictatorial approach adopted not only goes against the fundamentals of free-speech and ethical journalism, but has also resulted in a PR own goal.

So where did MasterCard go wrong and can brand marketers effectively engagement and incentivise key influencers and the media?  Here are five key ways:

1. Know what you’re measuring and why you’re measuring it
Social media is often seen as a quick win channel and in the case of MasterCard, it was clearly looking for fast and effective impact. So the idea was to measure number of retweets and times the hashtag got mentioned.

I question the purpose of this as it smacks of an afterthought and a lack of planning. To measure the impact of social media as part of the wider sponsorship campaign, MasterCard could have looked at the amount of user-generated content that accompanied the event or created an alternative poll to the awards. 

If the social media objectives matched the objectives of why it was sponsoring the event in the first place, what was measured would not be the amount of times #priceless was tweeted.

2. Bring journalists on the journey
Not only was this a social media gaffe, but it failed to grasp the first law of journalism; that their integrity will be in question if they are compromised in what they can or cannot say. Even if it is innocent like "Tweet this before the event", the reminder that they are being offered tickets and travel by the sponsor breaks this rule.

Journalists love exclusivity. Give content that is useful rather than prescription journalism. Before the event, reveal the hashtag by all means, but don’t feed the lines. On the day, engage with them and be playful. Why not offer exclusive back stage pics by having them engage with the client twitter feed?

 3. Engage with your audience
The assumption was that journalists would provide the catalyst for conversation on social media. This strategy only work if the journalists have a deeper understanding of what’s going on at the event.

So where was the engagement with people who were desperate for content; who could use pictures and videos to aid their enjoyment of the event? Journalists are important influencers, but they did not seem to be an influencer engagement strategy at play here.

What makes the story even worse is that MasterCard has come across as a cynical sponsor and not one in tune with the event.

4. Be the role of content curator as well as creator
There’s a dance between journalists, influencers, bloggers and enthusiasts that has clearly been played wrong here. As official sponsor, MasterCard could have put more exclusive content out through social channels. Yet, it did not factor in the role of curation of great content from other sources as part of its plans. Where were the pictures and videos from fans with tickets? These could have been passed onto to journalists to use as part of their coverage of the event.

5. Be authentic!
The biggest problem here is that MasterCard does not come across as authentic. By not clearly defining the objectives and then not planning based on these objectives, what’s come across is that the sponsor is shallow and aloof from the event. The Brit Awards are meant to be accessible to the young, hip and happening. What comes across is that MasterCard is out of touch. It undoes all the good work it has put in over the year.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Ex-Thomas Cook marketer Mike Hoban resurfaces at Morrisons
Barbour creates real-time illustrations of consumers' stories for summer campaign
Viral review: Samsung goes for Apple’s jugular but fails to connect
View from Brazil: why we didn't believe we could lose the World Cup
Heineken unveils ‘Open Your City’ drive with Metro for ‘men of the world’
Unilever continues portfolio 'reshaping' with Slim-Fast sale
Amazon to fight US authorities over in-app purchase claims
Google set to invest $100m in Europe's tech start-ups
Metcalfe's set to release quirky debut TV ad
Samsung pities the iPhone 'wall huggers'
Smirnoff campaign aims to make Formula One less elitist
Apple wins EU battle to register store layout as trademark
Marketing directors need to step outside 'marketing box' to earn seat on the board
Hottest virals: Burger King’s emotional gay pride Whopper ad, plus Apple and Guinness
Developer creates software enabling Google Glass mind-control
Kick-ass girl beats up shopping centre staff in music video
Top 10 ads of the week: Aldi's World Cup cider ad scores with consumers
Sony relives Germany's 7-1 victory against Brazil in Subbuteo Vine
Burberry credits 9% revenue hike on strong online sales and 'more targeted marketing'
Ritz returns to UK TV screens after 30-year hiatus
Mars creates chief health and wellbeing officer role
Brands make the most of Germany's dramatic victory over Brazil
Adios Justin King! Watch our video tribute as he leaves Sainsbury's after a decade
Nike calls time on 13-year Manchester United kit deal
Three TV ad banned over misleading 'free' call claims
GNM boss David Pemsel: 'The Guardian has got its mojo back'
M&S has missed a massive opportunity to put digital strategy at its heart
Google partners with the Barbican to show coders are artists
Samaritans encourages men to talk about issues with #DownNotOut campaign
Lego's partnership with Shell 'not awesome', according to Greenpeace viral