Credible partnerships: Mastercard case study

Fifty per cent of executives are likely to read branded content produced in partnership with a recognised expert. We share key learnings from our case study with Mastercard. 

How do brands increase the credibility of their thought leadership? Raconteur’s research of 500 European C-suites and their content consumption reveals the importance of partnerships.

Building a partnership over time

A trusted and successful brand partnership needs to be built over time. Mastercard and The Fletcher School at Tufts University is a great example of this. 

Starting in 2011, the financial services corporation teamed up with The Fletcher School – the oldest school in the United States dedicated to graduate studies in international affairs – with the aim of putting together projects and studies based on subjects that both the organisation and institute felt were lacking from other sources.

Paul Truman, senior VP global enterprise risk and strategy at Mastercard, outlines the company’s initial aims from the partnership: 

“[It was] knowledge and insight development with a trusted partner. To create genuine thought leadership for the benefit of the wider industry and regions you must create the right foundation of data, expertise and will. You must also enable each other’s networks to ensure we maximize the reach of our work.”

Since then, the partnership between the educational institute and multinational corporation has evolved into The Digital Evolution Index, a bi-annual report produced in partnership with Raconteur looking into technology adoption and the state of digital trust across the world. 

First launched in 2014, the paper provides a study of the pace of digital evolution across 60 countries, across five key drivers: supply, demand, institution, environment and innovation. Now it uses over eight years’ worth of data to provide each nation with an overall digital evolution and momentum score, as well as measuring digital trust.

Overcoming challenges

However, the partners did face challenges along the way. Initially accessing and using data which had strict guidelines in place was a struggle. It was vital to keep Mastercard’s data anonymised in order to not infringe global privacy laws. Furthermore, to create a clear picture of digital development across the world, the partners had to back up the data they already had with a variety of secondary sources.

The Fletcher School did this by using social science reasoning to identify and extract intelligence from a variety of proxies to plug lags and veracity gaps in publically available data. This meant establishing data partnerships with other businesses in the digital ecosystem, including Blue Triangle Technologies and Akamai Technologies. This critical step ensured the study was purely data-driven and analytical in all aspects.

Truman explains:

“Collaborative approaches to research – between market actors, policy makers, and academia – are necessary to achieve a truly comprehensive understanding of evolving phenomena such as digitalization and their implications on countries, their economies and societies writ large. No one party can do this alone and do justice to the topic at hand.”

Cultural impact

The partnership has grown in strength over six years and has allowed Mastercard to spark conversations with governments as well as within the media and position itself as a driver of digital transformation world-wide. 

The brand believes the partnership was successful as both organisations had the same mission: to understand how digital is evolving across nations based on economic data and make this information widely accessible to the rest of the world.

Truman offers a piece of advice for other brands looking to partner with publishers of institutes: “Pick your partners carefully, establish trust in how you work and what success looks like – mission alignment is key!”