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Will sponsors bail on the World Cup?

Adam Allington May 29, 2015
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Talk about a bad week for the “beautiful game.” The corruption charges against FIFA officials are off-putting, yet there is no other live global event that provides the marketing reach that an event like FIFA’s World Cup offers.

Some sponsors have left in the past, but current ones, like Visa and Coca-Cola, have big investments to think about as they consider their responses.

Rob Prazmark is the CEO of 21 Sports and Entertainment Marketing Group. “You could put the World Cup on the moon, and the amount of eyeballs watching it would not change,” he says.

With a global audience of over 3 billion — remember, there are around 7 billion people on the entire planet — an advertising deal with the World Cup carries an enormous upside. And, FIFA still has three years until the next World Cup in Russia to repair its image.

“And if they don’t,” Prazmark says, “the sponsors will either walk away, find a way to sue them or just let their contracts expire.

But don’t hold your breath on that happening says Jonathan Lee, managing director of marketing and strategy at Huge.

“Brands aren’t going to walk away or bail on FIFA, unless the fans actually bail on football,” Lee says.

That’s not going to happen, but with some much money and prestige on the line, corporate sponsors might exert pressure on Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s newly re-elected president, in other ways.

“Will they force him to reconsider proceedings going forward and the awarding of that 2022 World Cup?” asks Patrick Rishe, director of the Sports Business Program at Washington University in St. Louis.

Rishe says awarding Qatar the 2022 World Cup was highly suspect to begin with, and advertisers like Coca Cola or Adidas won’t want their names dragged through the mud over and over again for the next seven years.

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