Fact Check: Is Djokovic 'VISA' Meme Really a Viral Mastercard Advert?

Australia's decision to revoke Novak Djokovic's visa for attempting to breach entry rules at the border has given plenty of fodder to both sides of the vaccine mandate debate.

But the deportation saga has also proven to be fertile ground for vaccine- and tennis-related memes, satire and, it appears, even viral advertising.

The Claim

As social media users piled on the jokes and memes following an Australian court's ruling to uphold the immigration ministry's decision to cancel the Serbian tennis star's visa, Mastercard purportedly saw an opportunity not to be missed.

"Mastercard/accepted across the world...when your VISA isn't," reads the caption printed on a credit card next to an image of Djokovic.

The image was quickly picked up by social media users, who gave credit to the card provider's marketing team for a seemingly masterful and quick-witted PR move.

Others appeared more skeptical about the provenance of the image, questioning whether it's a real ad or just a photoshopped take on a joke that has been circulating for days.

The viral image was trending on multiple platforms over the past week, notably on LinkedIn, where it received praise as a supposed example of "comparative advertising"—the practice of calling a specific competitor by name, often for the express purpose of highlighting their inferiority.

The Facts

It is not unheard of for competing brands to target each other in their advertising campaigns—notable examples include Mac vs PC and Pepsi vs Coke.

However, even though the Mastercard vs VISA rivalry goes back decades, there is no evidence that this was a case of targeted marketing by the former.

A reverse image search by Newsweek revealed that the image presented as a Mastercard ad has been tweeted as early as January 10.

Though Newsweek has been unable to identify the original author, both the text version of the joke and several variations of the meme have been circulating since January 6, the date Djokovic's visa was first cancelled.

Remote file

There are numerous red flags indicating that the viral image has no affiliation with the Mastercard marketing department. First, though multiple posters referenced Mastercard as the source, and some even tagged the company's social media accounts, none appeared to link to a specific post by the company, nor drew any reaction from it.

Newsweek could not identify any cases of the image being used on any of the company's official accounts or promotional campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Additionally, the logo used in the image appears to be outdated, including a striped crossover segment that is missing from the company's branding on its official website, having been discontinued in 2016.

A Mastercard media relations team representative in an emailed response to Newsweek confirmed that the image was not authored by the company.

"That is not content created by Mastercard. It appears to be a consumer-generated image. One giveaway is that it contains a logo we have not used in years," he noted, attaching the company's current logo for comparison.

The Ruling

Fact Check - False

False.

The viral image featuring a photo of Novak Djokovic on a Mastercard alongside the caption "MasterCard/accepted across the world...when your VISA isn't" is not a real Mastercard advert.

It appears to be an example of user generated content, though Newsweek has been unable to identify the photoshopping mastermind behind the meme.

FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK

Novak Djokovic on a billboard in Belgrade
A billboard depicting Novak Djokovic is seen on the side of a building in Belgrade on January 16. The Serbian tennis player has received an outpouring of support in his native Serbia after being deported from Australia. ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images