After five years, the Olympic Games are back in action, with Tokyo heading up the prestigious sporting event in 2021. Evie Rusman writes

Financial institutions are big sponsors of sport and the Olympics is no exception. Being a once in every four year event, it is no wonder the world’s biggest financial brands want their names on the stands.

But who are the biggest backers?

There is no doubt that Visa is one of the biggest supporters of the Olympics, having been a sponsor of the original Games since 1986 and the Paralympic Games since 2002.

In 2018, the card giant announced it had agreed a partnership renewal, which began in 2020, with the International Olympic Committee.

The 12-year deal is worth $100m and means Visa continues to be part of the Worldwide TOP Partner Programme. In addition, Visa is the exclusive payment services sponsor and therefore, will be the only card type accepted at the Olympic Games until 2032.

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Team Visa

Aside from its official sponsorship of the Games, Visa also backs a substantial number of individual athletes as well as teams.The credit card giant’s Team Visa scheme features 96 athletes across 27 sports, including soccer star Megan Rapinoe, gymnast Simone Biles — a quadruple gold medallist at the Rio de Janeiro Games — and two-time defending 800-metre Olympic champion David Rudisha.

Visa announced renewed sponsorships for these athletes in March 2020, just as the pandemic was in full swing.

Speaking at the time, Chris Curtin, Visa’s chief brand and innovation marketing officer, said: “We elected to stand behind our roster of Team Visa athletes and make sure they knew affirmatively we were planning to do so and that we were going to offer to extend our relationship with them into 2021.

“They’re all dealing with how they maintain their training schedules, discipline and focus at the same time they’re dealing with what’s happening with their families and their loved ones. One thing that we wanted to do as Visa was to take one potential point of ambiguity and maybe concern off their plates, because there should be none.”

Arguably, the highest profile British athlete in its portfolio is swimmer Adam Peaty, who specialises in 100m breaststroke and won gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Peaty said: “These are unprecedented times for all of us. But having Visa’s support makes these times of adversity quite a bit easier.”


The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is another big supporter of the Games and has sponsored Team Canada since 1947.In the 70 or so years since its initial sponsorship, RBC has supported a wide range of programmes with the goal of “helping amateur athletes achieve their potential” – whether that be on the Olympic stage or at the grassroots level through initiatives that allow children to access sport.

One way the bank is trying to do this is through its Training Ground programme. The funding programme aims to find young athletes with Olympic potential and provide them with the resources they need to achieve their podium dreams.

With the belief that high performance sports should be accessible to all athletes that are talented, qualified and have the will to compete, the programme travels the country searching for athletes between the ages of 14 and 25 that will fuel the Canadian Olympic pipeline.

Furthermore, in 2017, RBC signed an eight-year sponsorship renewal with the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) through to 2024. Through the deal, RBI will continue to be a premier national partner of the COC and provide financial support to high performance Canadian athletes.

Starling Bank 

Last March, UK challenger Starling Bank pledged its support for Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics.At the time, Anne Boden, CEO and Founder of Starling Bank, said: “We feel extremely privileged to be the official Bank of Team GB and will be sharing our excitement with customers in a number of creative ways over the next few months, which we hope will add to the feeling of community that the Olympic Games inspires.

“At Starling Bank, we are determined to change the banking landscape in Britain and so far, our efforts have helped us to win Best British Bank for the last two years. This winning mentality will make for a perfect partnership with Team GB at the Olympic Games.”

Although, Starling’s announcement to become the “Bank of GB” was made just before the pandemic hit, and as a result, the bank has now ended this partnership.

Through the partnership, Starling had planned to assist the team in getting to the summer and winter Olympic Games. The bank also said it would provide retail accounts to all British athletes, credited with £100 to help with personal financial goals.

Citi and the Paralympic Games

In 2016, Citi Bank ended its partnership with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) after five years of sponsorship. The bank had been one of Team USA’s most active sponsors in the Rio 2016 cycle.

Instead, Citi decided to join forces with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). It also pledged its support for the National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) and Para athletes as they prepare for regional and world competitions as well as the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

In addition to the IPC and NPC partnerships, Citi sponsors 42 Para athletes from 20 markets. Collectively, they participate in 13 different Para sports, have won 94 Paralympic medals and represent a diverse range of Paralympic classifications.

Citi said: “By supporting Para sport programmes at all levels, we impact the lives of the individuals participating, and actively shape communities’ perceptions of them.”

Another notable mention goes to Bank of America who is a sponsor of the Special Olympics and has been since 2003.