Castrol, Continental and Johnson & Johnson severed their 2nd tier partnership with FIFA, joining Sony and Emirates who recently did not extend their sponsorship with the world football governing body.
The withdrawal of support from five of the world’s most recognisable brands represents a huge blow to the finances of Fifa, which nets around £1 billion from its commercial partners every four years.
The departure of 5 major brands from FIFA sponsors portfolio is interesting at many levels.
Firstly, although none of the exiting brands openly mentioned that their walk away reason is linked to the rights holder facing corruption allegation and an unprecedented brand image drop, it would be naive not to consider that not extending a sponsorship with the world’s most lucrative sporting event is not based on FIFA current turmoil.
I often point out whether brands can communicate effectively around an event without an official partnership -or sponsorship- with the rights holder. The 2014 World Cup showed that non official sponsors can benefit from a significant exposure with strong marketing initiatives, appealing products, strong digital activations, etc. Some call it ambush marketing, I call it smart marketing.
Secondly, considering the unique global reach of football and the fantastic ROI a World Cup can generate, exiting -or not extending- an official partnership with the World Cup could be foolish at best.
As football marketers, we often considered that a World Cup sponsorship for a brand was the “holy grail” that automatically generates revenue, increases brand image, allows strong fan engagement and the unique opportunity to show products and services to the entire world. There is indeed NO other sport that could offer such a global marketing platform.
However, when 5 major FIFA sponsors/partners, exit their sponsorship, it reveals a “new trend”. A trend which outlines that no matter the lucrative business magnitude of an event, no matter how significant the ROI is, brands no longer want their names to be associated with a rights holder which has been constantly shrouded in allegations of corruption and controversy.
It is a “new trend” in football marketing where sponsors seem to choose their brand image over the benefit of global sponsorship ROI.
It will be interesting to see whether other FIFA sponsors or partners will follow that trend.
The five official partners who have called it quits [Source: The Telegraph]
Sony: Signed a £160 million contract in 2005 as one of Fifa’s first ‘partners’ after it revamped its sponsorship portfolio. Seven-year deal began in 2007, after Philips’ link with Fifa ended.
Johnson & Johnson: Signed in 2011 for one World Cup as Brazil tournament’s official health care sponsor. Decided against renewing deal for Russia 2018 or beyond.
Castrol: Joined the Fifa family in 2008 in a deal described as the biggest in its 100-year history. A World Cup sponsor, it signed on until after the 2014 tournament.
Continental: Commercial backer of Fifa since 2003, tyre company took up option of becoming World Cup sponsor ahead of 2010 event, with option to extend to 2014.
Emirates: Became sponsor at 2006 World Cup before getting partner status. Decided not to continue beyond 2014, as terms “did not meet expectations”.