Recent bribery and corruption scandals have tainted the FIFA brand to the extent that many western companies no longer wish to associate themselves with it, plus some brands are wary of being in any way linked to Russia’s geopolitical activities.
Chinese businesses are stepping in to fill the gap, having spotted an unprecedented opportunity to put their brands in front of a global audience.
“The Chinese view of ethics and governance is different to western standards, and it is very easy for Chinese companies to say ‘FIFA has moved on’,” Simon Chadwick, professor of sports enterprise at Salford University, told the Guardian.
“And, [Chinese companies can say] that they were not backing the Sepp Blatter-era regime and are supporting a clean FIFA under Gianni Infantino [who replaced Blatter in 2016].”
There is also widespread speculation that China is aiming to host the 2030 World Cup – President Xi has previously expressed his hope that the Chinese team will be one of the best in the world – so the financial backing of Chinese businesses is likely to play in its favour.
Accordingly, companies across a range of categories – including Mengniu (dairy), Vivo (mobile phones), Hisense (domestic appliances), Yadea (electric scooters) – have seized the opportunity to put themselves in front of a global audience.
And the Dalian Wanda conglomerate has signed up as a top-tier FIFA partner – alongside Visa, Coca-Cola and Adidas – for the next four World Cups.
“If more Chinese brother companies become Fifa sponsors like Wanda, we will join forces to advance the interests of China soccer,” said Wang Jianlin, who heads Dalian Wanda.
Meanwhile, Adrian Farina, senior vice-president of marketing for Europe at Visa, was sanguine about the background to the tournament.
“These large events inevitably draw all sorts of attention and if you go back in history you will find there was always something going on, whether it’s something geopolitical or something else,” he told Marketing Week. “People use these forums to express their opinions.
“The moment the game starts fans will turn their focus to celebrating the sport and that’s what we associate ourselves with.”
Sourced from The Guardian, Marketing Week; additional content by WARC staff