LONDON: FIFA has received a new blow as one of its leading sponsors, Coca-Cola, issued a thinly veiled threat in response to the global football organisation's handling of corruption allegations around the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.
"Anything that detracts from the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup is a concern to us," a spokesman for Coca-Cola told The Sunday Times.
"The current conflicting perspectives regarding the investigation are disappointing. Our expectation is that this will be resolved quickly in a transparent and efficient manner."
The "conflicting perspectives" comment relates to the row that has blown up after FIFA declined to publish the results of an investigation into claims that bribes were made in order to win the right to host the World Cup.
Instead it issued a summary document which was then disowned by the author of the original investigation.
Earlier this year, major sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Adidas, BP, Hyundai, Sony and Visa, all expressed their disquiet at the "negative tenor" surrounding FIFA after it awarded the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
At that time, industry experts commented on the unusual step of brands commenting publically on these issues. Nigel Currie, director of sports marketing and sponsorship at Brand Rapport, told Marketing Week that brands were anxious to protect their reputation and image.
"CSR is now so important to brands that any of their activity or related activity such as major sponsorship programmes require monitoring and public comment," he said.
Coca-Cola is only too aware of how its association with the event has the potential to turn sour. An ESOMAR paper outlined how, when protests about official corruption swept Brazil in 2013, the World Cup had been drawn into the argument.
As a sponsor, Coca-Cola was implicated in the anger so it took steps to rethink its role in the discussion around the World Cup. It decided on a quick adjustment in course and implemented a communication campaign addressing the theme of the social unrests which produced positive results.
While Coca-Cola is the first brand to openly criticise FIFA, it is not the only one to still have concerns – Adidas has indicated it will talk directly to FIFA about the report and McDonald's said it was monitoring the situation.
Data sourced from The Sunday Times, Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff