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Difficult weekend for sports sponsors

News, 05 October 2015

LONDON/ZURICH: Football sports sponsors have flexed their muscles to demand the departure of FIFA president Sepp Blatter while rugby sponsors are counting the cost of the early exit of the England team from the World Cup.

On Friday night, Coca-Cola made an unprecedented intervention into the corruption scandal that has engulfed football's global governing body.

"For the benefit of the game, the Coca-Cola Company is calling for FIFA president Joseph Blatter to step down immediately so that a credible and sustainable reform process can begin in earnest," the company said in a statement.

"Every day that passes, the image and reputation of FIFA continues to tarnish. FIFA needs comprehensive and urgent reform, and that can only be accomplished through a truly independent approach," it added.

Three other leading sponsors – McDonald's, Visa and Budweiser – expressed similar sentiments in what appeared to be a co-ordinated strategy aimed at protecting their multi-billion dollar investment in the sport. Adidas and Kia declined to take part, the Guardian reported.

Rugby sponsors, meanwhile, had more familiar problems to deal with as England lost to Australia in the Rugby World Cup meaning the host nation will no longer play a part in the competition.

Tournament sponsors are expected to be relatively unaffected. "Their campaigns are non-partisan, multi-territory, and designed to evolve with the tournament" explained Tim Crow, CEO at sponsorship innovators Synergy.

Not so for those which have backed individual teams, such as O2 which sponsors England. "In an instant O2's campaign becomes a signifier for England's failure," he told Marketing.

The team had earlier lost to Wales and Tim Collins, co-managing director at sports marketing consultancy Octagon, said that "O2's Make them Giants and #weartherose campaigns will cease immediately only to reappear on social media in bastardised versions cleverly reconstructed by smug Welsh fans".

He expected that O2 would have contingency plans in place "but that won't hide the financial impact of not being able to capitalise on the pointy end of the tournament".

"For brands aligned to England … the opportunity to activate is virtually over," he said.

Data sourced from Guardian, Marketing; additional content by Warc staff