While the announcement regarding the arrest of FIFA executives is certainly a major news story, it also has important implication for marketing. Sports are big business for brands. And when negative publicity enters a sport, brands supporting the sport will often respond by quickly pulling their sponsorship. For example, nearly all brands that supported golfer Tiger Woods pulled their sponsorship when his infidelity issues came to light in 2009.
No one knows what will happen in the FIFA situation, but any brand associated with FIFA must be worried. The sport is so huge that any evidence of illegal activity by this group may come back to haunt a brand unless they make a quick decision to severe ties. But a company that makes a hasty decision to remove their support of FIFA could face an even greater backlash if the charges against FIFA executives do not hold. So right now, most brands associated with FIFA are taking a wait-and-see approach before making a decision.
As discussed in this Advertising Age story, major brands, including Budweiser, McDonald’s and Allstate, are not making rash judgments regarding the situation. Through their public relations departments, they all are indicating their awareness of the issue but are not ready to make any decision regarding their association with FIFA. (It is interesting to note that Nike also has a stake in this though it is unclear exactly what the implications may be for them.)
As things evolve over the next few weeks, if the case against the FIFA executives becomes stronger, expect to see brands pull their sponsorship. However, also expect that once things settle down nearly all of these brands will return, likely in time for the 2018 World Cup.