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Sponsor’s power amidst FIFA corruption allegations

Tom Cleary Allegations of corruption following FIFA’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar raise important questions about the power of sponsors in the world game, and the extent to which they can force institutional change within the governing body FIFA.

A significant number of high profile sponsors, including Coca Cola, Adidas, Sony and Visa have publicly expressed their concerns over FIFA’s handling of the corruption allegations, with fears that it could have negative implications for their brand. Over $2.3 billion will be spent on World Cup TV advertising alone, with many brands attempting to forge an inextricable connection with the world game to leverage its ‘halo’ effect. Moreover, it is estimated that FIFA will generate $1.4 billion from sponsorship revenue following the 2014 World Cup. 

With this in mind, shouldn’t sponsors be able to exert more influence over FIFA? Regardless of whether sponsors still see a financial benefit in supporting the controversial organisation, they should issue an ultimatum for a revote, or withdraw funding on the grounds that it adversely impacts fans and inevitably their customers.

It is also interesting to note that little media coverage has addressed the implications of such allegations on Qatar. Importantly, the World Cup was a chance for the Arab emirate to showcase itself to a global audience. Regardless of whether the allegations are true, they have resulted in a PR disaster, in turn causing irreversible damage to the emirate’s image. Suggestions of corruption are compounded by concerns over player and fan safety in extreme weather conditions and inadequate labour conditions.

It will be interesting to see what the next step is for FIFA. However it is clear that fundamental institutional changes are required to restore faith in their governance of the world game.

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