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Home arrow Marketing Research News arrow Latest Market Research Findings arrow Survey Shows FIFA Bribery, Corruption Allegations Hurt Sponsor, Fan Engagement
Survey Shows FIFA Bribery, Corruption Allegations Hurt Sponsor, Fan Engagement PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brand Keys   
29 May 2015
79% of Fans Negatively Disposed to Brand Association with FIFA, Brands Lose Average of 13% of Fan Engagement Via FIFA Sponsorship
A telephone study conducted by Brand Keys this week, the New York-based brand loyalty and customer engagement research consultancy found that World Cup sponsors could lose up to 20% of their fan engagement strength because of their association with Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the governing body for soccer and organizer of the World Cup, which is under attack for corruption and bribery charges.

“No marketer or sponsor brand can have missed the well-publicized arrest of nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives associated with the Swiss-based organization,” noted Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president, following a 47-count indictment brought by the U.S. Justice Department.

Charges range from bribery to corruption, and racketeering to fraud to money laundering. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of the 2,258 U.S. soccer fans who participated in the national survey indicated that they would be negatively disposed toward a brand that was associated with FIFA.

“The extent of the charges may have come as a surprise to fans of the game, but not the fact that they’ve been there for years,” said Passikoff. For decades FIFA has operated under a cloud of negative allegations ranging from leadership corruption to match fixing in the professional leagues to bribes paid to influence host-country selection for the World Cup.

FIFA is a “nonprofit” organization, a nonprofit that took in an estimated $4 billion from the 2014 World Cup, most of which came from broadcast deals and brand sponsorships. As the anti-FIFA corruption movement grows, the study found that brands will ultimately suffer more than they gain from their official sponsorship with the world’s largest sporting event.

Seven Sponsor Brands Measured
The survey examined seven major “official” U.S. FIFA sponsor-brands to determine the effects of their affiliation with FIFA. “Because the seven brands examined compete in different categories, their current fan engagement strength has been calculated to reflect their current standing versus brand category competitors,” said Passikoff.

“The second percentage is how fans rate the brands based on continued association with FIFA and sponsorship of the World Cup. These assessments correlate very highly with consumer behavior toward the brand in the marketplace. Significant losses in fan engagement don’t generally bode well for the sponsoring brand. Awareness and additional exposure is no replacement for real fan engagement. ”

Sponsor Current Fan Engagement Association with FIFA World Cup

Adidas 82% 70%

Budweiser 81% 61%

Coke 89% 80%

Hyundai 94% 88%

McDonald’s 79% 62%

Sony 83% 75%

Visa 87% 71%

“It’s not as if sponsors have been unaware of these allegations,” noted Passikoff, “The perceived value of the event has caused brands to turn a blind eye to decades of accusations. In light of the new charges you can expect that they’ll all express deep concern over the corruption charges and negative publicity, with many brands expressing ‘concern for the sport, the good of the game, ethical standards, transparency, and the fact that they take all this seriously and are carefully monitoring the situation, while being distressed by the tenor of the public debate.’”

Even in the absence of ROI measures, most sponsors see the World Cup as a valuable commodity. But commercial pressure will become the ultimate test, as it always does. None of the brands examined in this survey has pulled out yet, but every brand has to be weighing the risks of continued association with what appears to be a thoroughly corrupt organization. It’s likely that sponsors will take a wait-and-see approach, but it’s a fair bet that brands will rationalize sponsorships on the basis of the sport and not FIFA. All you have to do is look at negative circumstances with leagues like the NFL and NBA to see that that strategy doesn’t always work out well,”
noted Passikoff.
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