FIFA Brand Dilemma

To be sponsoring major sport events is always a risk. Anything can happen anytime and these affairs of corruption that splashed over the whole FIFA organisation and led Sepp Blatter to dismiss yesterday is just one part of a rampant corruption that exists in this ‘non-profit organisation’ since few decades. I enjoyed like most of you the speech of John Oliver in his show ‘Last Week Tonight’ when he is asking the sponsors to help to clean up the FIFA system. Well, I’m not sure the situation is as simple as we would like it to be – I mean ‘Hunt the Evil, Build the Good’

This is how they’ve reacted to the scandal when it all started

(source: money week.com, article by Natalie Stanton, 2015)

First-tier sponsors

Adidas logo

Sponsor history: Adidas has been supplying the official match football for World Cup tournament matches since 1970. In late 2013, it extended its sponsorship of the Fifa World Cup ball to 2030.

Details: It’s the only sports company among Fifa’s top-tier sponsors. Besides the World Cup, Adidas is involved in all other Fifa events, including the Confederations Cup and U-20 World Cup. At each of these events, Fifa officials wear Adidas products from head to toe.

Reaction so far?  Adidas says it is “fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance and we expect the same from our partners… Following [yesterday’s] news, we can therefore only encourage Fifa to continue to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do”.

Coca-Cola logo

Sponsor history: Coca-Cola has had a formal association with Fifa since 1974, and it has been an official sponsor of the Fifa World Cup since 1978. In 2005, the company extended its partnership until 2022.

Details: One of the longest-standing corporate partners of Fifa, Coca-Cola has had stadium advertising at every Fifa World Cup since 1950. It provides non-alcoholic drinks at Fifa-organised events, and sponsors the Fifa/Coca-Cola World Rankings.

Reaction so far? The company has issued a statement saying, “This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the Fifa World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations”.

Gazprom logo

Sponsor history: The Russian state-owned gas company signed up as a partner with Fifa in 2013.

Details: Gazprom is a partner for all Fifa competitions between 2015 and 2018 – culminating in the World Cup which is due to take part in Russia in that year. In 2013, Russia’s president Putin labelled the deal as “important and noble”.

Reaction so far? The only sponsor to so far concede that its sponsorship agreement “is not affected” by the current scandal.

Hyundai logo

Sponsor history: Hyundai/Kia first began its alliance in 1999 before becoming a partner in 2007. It recently extended its relationship until 2022.

Details: Fifa’s “official automotive partner”, its deal includes comprehensive rights for all Fifa competitions.

Reaction so far? The company has said it is “extremely concerned” by the allegations, and will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Visa logo

Sponsor history: Visa first struck up a partnership in 2007, and recently extended this until 2022.

Details: Visa has global rights to financial services products at more than 40 Fifa events. In 2015, Visa is set to activate its partnership at five Fifa events, including the Women’s World Cup and the U-20 World Cup.

Reaction so far? Of all Fifa’s sponsors, Visa has issued the strongest statement yet, saying that unless Fifa “makes changes now”, it will “reassess” its sponsorship agreement.

Second-tier sponsors

Budweiser logo

Sponsor history: Budweiser has been a second-tier sponsor since 1986, and has agreed to be the “official beer” of the tournament until 2022.

Details: Budweiser also sponsors the “Budweiser Man of the Match” initiative.

Reaction so far? The company has said it expects all of its partners to “maintain strong ethical standards and operate with transparency”.  

McDonald's logo

Sponsor history: McDonald’s has partnered with Fifa since 1994, and recently extended its relationship until 2022.

Details: Fifa’s “official restaurant”.

Reaction so far? The company has said that it takes the allegations seriously, and is continuing to monitor the situation closely.

All the sponsors reacted the way they should have but you can’t accept the fact that they were not aware of the situation inside the FIFA. An to be honest, even if you go in details in the declarations, well, nothing is really said. Really nothing. Just some semantic empty speeches to gain time and see how they should react. Remember that Samsung is ready to go for it instead of Sony, that MasterCard is not far from Visa…. Don’t tell me that those big brands are not aware of the difficulty of the sponsoring exercise. I don’t tell they were part of all this mess, but, we have to understand that they were completely aware that things could not be as lean as they wanted it to be. I see here more a crisis communication prouesse than a real wish to change things. Big brands don’t like to change things. They talk about it, they plan for it…but their supremacy is inherently engraved in keeping things as they are. This is the difficulty of being leader…to be a challenger is always easier to manoeuvre.

So, now, what will they do? That’s a vast interrogation for all the marketing teams that might not sleep a lot at the moment.

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