Even as the World Cup is less than a year away, FIFA is struggling to find firms willing to be partners, which is a reflection of how a 2015 corruption crisis continues to hurt the organisation.
P.C. : EA Sports
FIFA, the global governing body for football, ordinarily enjoys huge revenue streams — in the hundreds of millions of dollars — from sponsorship deals attached to the world’s mostwatched sporting event, the World Cup. But less than a year before the next edition of the tournament, the organisation is having trouble finding companies willing to be a partner.
The sport is more popular than ever. What is different this time is FIFA’s reputation.
FIFA did not respond to questions about its sponsorship programme. In fact, Patrick Nally said, FIFA’s association with corrupt behaviour now runs so deep that he suggested the 113-year-old FIFA should consider a name change. “The word FIFA globally has got just the worst image in the world: If you are trying to sell the FIFA brand, if anything those four letters stand for corruption and it’s so unattractive.”
It is an uncomfortable topic. In the aftermath of the arrests of key FIFA officials in May 2015, a handful of companies allowed their partnership agreements to end and several of the organisation’s longest-serving sponsors — including Visa, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and AnheuserBusch InBev — took the rare step of speaking out against football’s governing body and its leadership. None, however, withdrew from a sponsorship agreement.
In the meantime, deals with Chinese companies like the Wanda Group, Hisense and Vivo, as well as an agreement with Qatar Airways announced earlier this year, have helped cover for the loss of partners like Sony and the Emirates airline.
But an apparent lack of interest among Russian businesses is hurting FIFA. Currently Gazprom is a top-tier partner, and Alfa Bank is FIFA’s only regional partner.
Global sponsorship income from the 2014 event was $650 million higher than the $1 billion generated at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. In 2018, the result for Russia will be flat at best, according to FIFA’s own estimates.
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