Marketing Daily

An Obvious Co-Brand: Game of Life Takes Visa

Judy Warner, March 9, 2007

COMING IN AUGUST, A NEW version of Life will take Visa, because as its nearly ubiquitous, year-old tag line promises, "Life Takes Visa."

The new edition of the popular Hasbro board game will be launched this summer for the first time featuring as currency (drum roll, please) Visa-branded cards rather than fake cash. Elements of Visa's teacher-approved financial literacy program will be incorporated into the "The Game of Life: Twists and Turns" so that when moms and dads initiate play with their kids they can also begin the money talks.

The four plastic playing cards and an electronic device are used by each player to keep track of their Life points. The cards don't have a magnetic stripe so are not swiped like a real credit card nor are they embossed; each of the colored cards carries the name of game company owner Milton Bradley.

The new iteration of the 47-year-old board game, says Visa spokesperson Michael Rolnick, is "reflective of current society" seeing that gift cards are one of the most popular presents given to teens and tweens. "Kids are experiencing cards earlier in life. We see this integration of our card and our 'Practical Money Solutions for Life' financial literacy program as the very beginning of a dialogue between parents and their kids on how to manage money in an increasingly cashless society."

That Visa promises to teach money management is akin to spirits marketers serving up "drink responsibly" messages and tobacco companies spewing the benefits of not smoking. Not all are happy. Consumer advocates and some parents are already "howling," according to one published account. "The credit card companies have already saturated the teen market, so they're going younger," says Susan Linn, co-founder of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

"Children need an understanding that five ones is a five," Robert Manning, author of Credit Card Nation, told USA Today. "The credit card confounds everything."

Rolnick also says that Visa is "no longer a credit card company. Most of our transactions occur on debit cards." The game further reflects the way that consumers choose to pay and be paid and reinforces Visa's role in driving the migration from cash and checks to electronic forms of payment. That's a huge opportunity: last year cash and checks accounted for $21 trillion worth of transactions.

Visa has been aggressive in its co-branding initiatives, hiring Creative Artists Agency last year to promote its brand on big and small screens. Its Visa check card is a regular on the highly rated NBC show "The Apprentice."

This latest venture with Hasbro grew out of a casual conversation some eight months ago at a conference attended by Hasbro and Visa marketing executives. It's not the first time the two companies have hooked up: last summer, a version of Monopoly was launched in Europe that featured plastic rather than fake paper currency.


This story ran on Marketing Daily on March 9, 2007.