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Mastercard and Eleven serve up Australia’s first wheelchair ball-kid program

As a partner brand of the recent Australian Open, Mastercard launched Australia’s first wheelchair ball-kid, in a pilot program, supported by its PR agency of record, Eleven, Mumbrella can reveal.

Ball-kids play an essential role in tennis tournaments, but not every kid has the opportunity to get involved. To make tennis tournaments more inclusive than ever before Mastercard decided to demonstrate the potential of wheelchair users to be ball-kids with the new program.

Eleven-year-old wheelchair user and Junior Wheelchair Tennis Champion Sonny Rennison was the inaugural participant.

To create the pilot program, Mastercard connected with a creative tech partner, Grand Slam trainers, and current and former world ranked players to support Sonny deliver the role at the high standard required by tennis players at Grand Slam tournaments.

The brand also collaborated with creative technology production company Streaker and disability consulting firm Get Skilled Access to design a solution that could support the experience for wheelchair users on the court.

“Both in Australia and around the world, Mastercard has a strong commitment to doing well by doing good, and championing diversity, equity and inclusion is a core part of that commitment,” Luke McClelland, director of communications, Australasia at Mastercard, told Mumbrella.

“It’s something the team and our partners are deeply passionate about, and that passion fuels us to deliver some incredible and impactful work here in Australasia, such as showcasing blind and low vision tennis through our ‘Tennis in a New Light’ campaign at last year’s tournament, or celebrating Māori culture on the global stage with Mastercard’s Sonic Trophy at the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2022.

“As marketers we have the power and the resources to make things happen,” McClelland continued. “Mastercard is incredibly proud of the Open ball-kid pilot and the team have huge ambitions for the program in 2024 and beyond, as we work with Sonny and our partners to bring the technology to a tennis tournament near you.”

Sonny Rennison said: “I have never seen a wheelchair ballkid before, so I thought it would never happen which made me sad when I was younger. I am excited and thankful to have this opportunity and to hopefully encourage other kids in wheelchairs who might want to be ballkids but didn’t think they could, like me. I hope we can show them that nothing is impossible and to keep pursuing their dreams.”

As Mastercard’s long time PR agency of record, Eleven helped launch the program to champion diversity and accessibility on the tennis courts.

Russ Tucker, executive creative director at the earned creative agency, told Mumbrella: “Making the world more inclusive through design is at the core of what Mastercard do, and we wanted people to feel, touch and see this ambition, beyond payments.

“Working with their network of partners, we brought to life a project with true purpose and function – we’re excited the tech designed with Sonny is available and accessible to others,” he said.

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