Mobile Commerce Daily is now Retail Dive: Mobile Commerce! Click here to learn more!

MasterCard’s Priceless Surprises drive Apple Pay payments at MLB game

MasterCard is teaming up with Apple Pay to prompt attendees at Major League Baseball’s 2015 All-Star Game to pay for food and merchandise with their smartphones as the credit card network continues to test a variety of mobile payments strategies.

The credit card company is eschewing its own branded Qkr! app in favor of Apple’s platform, which is likely meant to drive more mobile payments among iOS users at the event. Attendees will be able to use Apple Pay to purchase food and merchandise, with a select few individuals set to receive a MasterCard Priceless Surprise, which may range from autographed memorabilia to prepaid cards.

“Apple Pay and Qkr! are two different ways to pay that we support – both of which give consumers increased choices in how, where and when they pay,” said Cheryl Guerin, group executive, global products and solutions at MasterCard. “With Apple Pay, MasterCard cardholders with enabled devices can benefit from a simple, safe and secure way to pay for concessions at the point of sale.

“For our cardholders, paying with Apple Pay is no different than any other use of their MasterCard as every purchase is enabled with enhanced security using our network and providing all of the same rights, guarantees and benefits as any other MasterCard transaction,” she said. “Ballparks first started accepting Apple Pay following its launch in October 2014 at the World Series stadiums in Kansas City and San Francisco.

“MasterCard’s partnership with MLBAM to bring contactless acceptance to the 2015 MLB All-Star Week festivities is a continuation of its longstanding relationship with MLB and ongoing efforts to enrich fan experiences both in-stadium and online, and is wholly separate from any agreements we make between Qkr! with MasterPass and MLB.”

Rewarding users
The possibility of receiving a Priceless Surprise will likely be a significant incentive for consumers to use Apple Pay over another payment method, such as cash or credit cards.

The All-Star Game, which is presented by T-Mobile and held in Cincinnati this year, is set to have many concession stands and purchasing stalls for the myriad of baseball enthusiasts. The one-step checkout process offered by Apple Pay gives users the convenience of paying quickly, thus shortening lines.

“Since the initial announcement about Apple Pay last year, MasterCard has demonstrated that they are ‘all in’ with Apple Pay, and given the visibility of Apple Pay and the increasing penetration of NFC, it’s clear that NFC-based mobile proximity payments will be the de facto standard in the U.S.,” said Thad Peterson, senior analyst at Aite Group. “It also positions them to accept Android Pay and Samsung Pay as those NFC mobile payment applications come on line.”

MasterCard cardholders who tap Apple Pay’s platform at the T-Mobile All-Star FanFest or Great American Ball Park may be eligible to receive one of the brand’s famous Priceless Surprises as an incentive. Baseball fans will likely appreciate getting an extra prize of All-Star branded premiums or a gift card.

This may also fuel some consumers to make additional purchases.

MasterCard believes that the contactless experience is ideal for ball parks and stadiums, as fans do not want to miss an exciting play by standing in line to purchase snacks or memorabilia.

Fans may also purchase regular season tickets with Apple Pay via the Major League Baseball application.

“It looks like this is only for the All-Star game so my guess is that it’s a promotion that they’re doing to increase visibility,” Mr. Peterson said. “They might have a commercial during the game that could reinforce the promotion and dramatically increase visibility with a much larger audience.”

Leveraging cross-marketing
This partnership will likely augment both brands, despite the fact that MasterCard has its own mobile payment solution, called Qkr!

This past March, MasterCard continued to raise awareness of its mobile payments capabilities at PGA Tour golf events, with attendees at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the first to get the chance to use its Qkr! app (see story).

The Apple Pay team-up appears to be for the one-time event, leaving ample opportunities open for MasterCard to potentially sponsor other functions and drive usage of its Qkr! app at those times.

“We believe this partnership will resonate with consumers looking for the most seamless ballgame experience,” MasterCard’s Ms. Guerin said. “As the mobile payments momentum continues, MasterCard is looking to deliver simple and secure payments to deliver the best possible experience for cardholders where, when and how they want to pay.

“By removing point of sale pain points and adding a ‘surprise and delight’ element to the mix with Priceless Surprises we believe consumers will react even more positively to Apple Pay.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York