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SPORTS MARKETING

World Cup sponsor activity ‘subdued’ as tournament kicks off​

By our News Team | 2022

All the traditional big-brand sponsors have taken their place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but things are slightly different this time around.

With the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicking off in Qatar on Sunday (20 November), sponsor and brand activity around soccer’s most prestigious tournament still seems a little subdued, according to some marketing industry analysts.

This may not be surprising, given the trepidation in many quarters over host nation Qatar’s human rights record, suggestions of corruption in the process that awarded the World Cup to the tiny Middle Eastern country, and the fact that, for the first time, it is not being held during the Northern Hemisphere summer.

Sports Marketing

Photo credit: Brewdog

UK-based sports journalist Sam Carp, for example, describes the atmosphere as “a little subdued” and quotes Neil Hopkins, Global Head of Strategy for the M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment agency, as saying that most sponsors are “less present”.

“When [the World Cup is] up against Christmas, it means you end up double-counting the amount you’ve got to market. So it’s either eating into your Christmas budget, which is still the most important trading event of the year for just about everybody associated with the World Cup, or you activate less against the World Cup,” Hopkins explained.

In an interview with the Sportspromedia.com website, Hopkins also noted how many brands who have released ads ahead of the tournament have made little reference to its location, choosing instead to focus on the fan experience of watching from afar.

Avoiding mention of Qatar can be a little harder, though, for FIFA’s 14 corporate partners and World Cup sponsors – which include the likes of Coca-Cola, Adidas and McDonald’s.

Big-name brands push on regardless

But many big-name brands are pushing on, regardless, in their efforts to be associated with the famous sporting event that draws billions of TV viewers.

For example, the PepsiCo sports drink brand Gatorade launched a new global campaign featuring current and retired soccer stars Lionel Messi, Roberto Carlos and Robert Pires a week ahead of the start of the World Cup.

A video spot entitled ‘The Next Ninety Minutes’ focuses on how athletes mentally and physically prepare for a challenge. The brand has also released a limited edition of its Gx Bottle, which was co-designed by Messi, who plays for Argentina and French club Paris Saint-Germain.

But some brands have taken an ‘anti-World Cup’ marketing stance. Brewdog, the Scottish brewery and pub chain, embarked on an OOH campaign with billboards that have anti-tournament slogans such as ‘The Beautiful Shame’, ‘Eat, Sleep, Bribe, Football’ and ‘First Russia, then Qatar. Can’t wait for North Korea’.

But Brewdog has also come under fire for its stance, with some people pointing it that its beer is being sold in Qatar and that its pub venues will still show tournament games on TV. For its part, the company says profits from beers sold in Qatar will be donated to charity.

With the tournament only scheduled to end on 18 December, look out for more sponsor intrigue still to come!

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