Success of Brazil 2014 puts FIFA in precarious position with sponsors

July 17, 2014
James Sephton

The sponsors of Brazil 2014 have had a field day, well a month of field days to be exact. The success of the World Cup is unprecedented. Brazil provided everything that football fans and sponsors crave. Inside and outside of the grounds the atmosphere was electric; there have been fantastic matches and goals, plenty of goals. Globally there has been positive fan reaction and engagement on social media has gone through the roof, even the Americans got on board with increasing viewing numbers!

Evidentially this buzz cannot last forever. For all the good of Brazil, I suspect that the FIFA corruption stories and questions over Sepp Blatter’s legitimacy in his role return to the media fore – how long before another Sunday Times expose?

Following the success of Brazil 2014, sponsors will demand more from their World Cup association and surely won’t accept second best. They want to be linked with something credible, positive and inspirational to ultimately boost sales and justify their involvement. For all their millions invested they don’t want one year of positivity and then left with three years of negativity until the next tournament comes around.

BlatterIn an ideal world, and we do not live in an ideal world, FIFA will address the corruptions allegations and replace Blatter to signify a fresh start for the organisation. The head of communications will also receive a hefty pay rise and set to work on changing the face of FIFA.

On a positive note the IOC (International Olympic Committee) did take action following the bribery voting scandal for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. The IOC overhauled their voting system and expelled ten members to acknowledge the wrong doings, give confidence back to their sponsorship partners and start afresh.

If FIFA do not follow the IOC’s lead, they are most likely to carry on with their heads in the sand, then this is where the sponsors can make the difference and step in to make a stand for change. They may have been happy to tow the line in the past but with the success of Brazil and Qatar 2022 on the horizon, with the multiple issues that it brings, now is the time for them to demand FIFA take action.

Prior to Brazil seven of the eight FIFA partners made statements asking for clarity in regard to the Qatar bribery allegations. The likes of Adidas (44 years), Coca Cola (36 years) and Budweiser (28 years) have the longevity of association and are most likely to lead the move for change. They have built large parts of their sponsorship activity around the World Cup and will want to continue long term without the negativity. Their commitment to the FIFA brand should count for something and they deserve to be answered.

One sponsor on their own may not carry enough weight to affect the status quo but if they were to group together to provide a united front then the collective £900m paid over each four year cycle should focus FIFA’s mind if nothing else.

FIFA’s autonomous behaviour has lasted too long, in no other walk of life would their behaviour be tolerated. I believe that the issues surrounding Qatar 2022 and the collective power of sponsors will ultimately move the goalposts and lead to change within the corridors of FIFA. How quickly this happens is anyone’s guess but one thing is for sure, if they are going to change then they need to do it sooner rather than later so they can keep riding the wave of Brazil 2014.

James Sephton

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