FIFA Sponsors Behaviour: Sponsorship Expert Kim Skildum-Reid Shares her Thoughts

FIFA Exit sponsors

Hi everyone,
FIFA has been going through a major crisis  for many years, and last month was critical with the arrests of FIFA officials by the FBI in Zurich. To understand FIFA sponsors behaviour is such a turmoil, I asked Kim Skildum-Reid, a corporate sponsorship strategist to share her expertise and thoughts on the matter.

There is not a single day that goes by that I don’t read Kim’s Power Sponsorship website. Kim Skildum-Reid is unquestionably one of the sponsorship industry’s most influential thought leaders with a website overflowing with great resources for industry professionals.

With her solid experience in sponsorship, I asked her to share her views on, how the FIFA ongoing scandals impact FIFA sponsors. What is the best way for sponsors to communicate, and what is the best strategy not to have their brand image dented by their association with FIFA.

Have a look at Kim’s inputs, and share your thoughts.

KimFIFA is going through a corporate earthquake with top officials arrested by the FBI on corruption allegations that spanned 2 decades. Yet another major turmoil for FIFA. How can a FIFA sponsor handle such a situation?

 If the sponsors come out and say, “About time!”, they’re admitting to being complicit in their involvement with corruption. If they don’t say anything, they look weak. Either way, if they stay on as more arrests are made and Blatter slowly transitions out, they look like corporate greed outweighs ethics. The only smart, appropriate move at this point is for the sponsors to say that the conduct of the officials and subsequent arrests have brought FIFA into disrepute, and they will no longer be involved. –

Adidas has been a FIFA sponsor since 1970. One of the longest partnership in the industry. Knowing that football is the key category for adidas, can adidas afford to exit FIFA sponsorship and not being involved in World Cups?

Adidas are involved in many football sponsorships, and sponsor many individual footballers. Pulling out of the World Cup allows them to concentrate on – and SAY they’re concentrating on – football that respects the game and the fans. If they feel the need to be involved with the World Cup, their legitimate claim on the game gives them a great platform for ambush.

– How much longer can FIFA sponsors afford to be associated with what has become a toxic brand? They can’t. That time passed years ago.

– After the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, major brands pulled the plug on FIFA sponsorships: Castrol, Continental, Johnson & Johnson, Emirates, Sony. Can these brands be actually more appealing to customers now than where they were associated with FIFA?

Absolutely! The World Cup is big, but the sponsors are only as successful as their leverage programs. And let’s face it; a lot of those are crap.

– How can a sponsor measure whether his brand has been dented by the rights holder misconduct? In other words, can a VISA or Coca-Cola sue FIFA if they can prove that their brand have suffered from FIFA’s wrongdoings?
Unfortunately, that won’t happen. FIFA’s misdeeds only hurt the sponsors’ brands if the sponsors were complicit, in which case, shame on the sponsors and their brands get what they deserve. If the sponsors were blindsided (somehow), and promptly exited once the damage to FIFA became untenable, their brands will be fine.

– Can the sponsorship value of a World Cup decrease because of what FIFA is going through or is football such a generating money sport that FIFA will find sponsors ready to pay top dollar no matter what?

Until there is a whole new regime at FIFA, and they have made big moves to regenerate faith in the organisation – goodbye, Qatar! – I think they’ll struggle to find good sponsors who will pay fair market value for the World Cup. They may find a handful of sponsors in developing markets with more corporate ego and money than marketing smarts, in which case, they could still make some revenue. The problem is, that kind of sponsor has no cache, bringing a downmarket feel to FIFA sponsorship. The sophisticated fanbase, who have seen FIFA for the corrupt organisation that it is, will see them as opportunistic dunces. Finally, they simply won’t get good results, and global marketing pundits will make that abundantly clear.

– People drew FIFA sponsors logos to position them as “proud supporters of human rights abuses“. What would you do if you were a FIFA sponsor and this happened?

A smart sponsor would have sided with the fans and demanded FIFA make changes to the host cities, the selection process, and the criteria for infrastructure development, including absolute adherence to human rights guidelines set forth by the UN.

– With Sepp Blatter resignation, do you think it will encourage sponsors to join FIFA?

Not yet. Sponsors will want to see big changes in the organisational structure and delegates, demonstration of real transparency, and past wrongs righted. Sponsors who rush back in before fans believe there is any real change to the corruption rife in FIFA will be seen to be opportunistic, in a very bad way.

Thank you very much Kim for your inputs.

Karl Lusbec