It won't be this year, although 50 percent of concession stands that are available for making purchases for Sunday's title game between the Rams and Patriots will be cashless. But it likely is coming.
"Part of what we talk a lot about with the NFL is getting a path to cashless events, and the epicenter is the Super Bowl," says Chris Curtin, Visa's chief brand and innovation marketing officer. "We are working on an architecture that will get us there, it's something we are really keen on.
"We want an experience that from head to toe will be a cashless experience. The NFL has agreed to partner with us in making that a reality. That is where our energy is now. We have a lot of learnings from other partnerships such as the Olympics and World Cup, we would like to apply those learnings to this experience and make it engaging and rewarding and inviting to fans."
And not only at the Super Bowl, but at other league-run events such as the draft, the Pro Bowl, and the international games in London and Mexico City. During Super Bowl week in Atlanta, Visa is activating a dedicated "MVP" checkout lane at the NFL Shop to encourage cardholders to pay with contactless devices and get in and out of line quickly. They also might run into an NFL player manning the checkout.
Eli Manning and Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants and Leonard Williams of the New York Jets will be putting through some shoppers' orders. "We have athletes affiliated with Team Visa who will do surprising light moments and be 'manning the cashiers,' and also going around town in Atlanta and able to bring a different kind of excitement for people there for the Super Bowl," Curtin says. "The goal is to have best in class experiences in the stadium itself, at the NFL Shop, at the Super Bowl Experience— have a lot of convenience — and be able to see a lot of the faces of all the ad campaigns fans have seen during the season who will be doing things in relation to payments."
The NFL, which re-upped with Visa on Tuesday, likes the idea of no cash for another reason: security. "Visa has been a trusted partner of the NFL since 1995 and we are excited to continue our work with them, especially in the area of implementing cashless capabilities at NFL events which will provide our fans faster, safer and more convenient digital payment options," says Renie Anderson, the league's senior vice president of partnerships, sponsorship and consumer products.
Curtin wouldn't put a timetable on which of the upcoming NFL events — from Super Bowls in Miami, Tampa, Los Angeles, Arizona, and New Orleans to drafts in Nashville in April and Las Vegas next year to the international games — might be cashless. But it seems to be coming.
"Super Bowl captures people's imagination whether you have a team in it or not, like a World's Fair 50 or 60 years ago," he says. "Our innovation and operations team thinks through the best way for Visa in that environment to provide a flawless and frictionless experience. It's always an exciting dynamic to have license to show you a better tomorrow."
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