The Power Of Social Makes It Easier To Drop FIFA - Who Will Be Next?

FIFA has a headache in the post and it's only going to get worse. Coca-Cola summed up the recent report in to alleged corruption over the successful Russia and Qatar bids as "disappointing." Emirates Airlines has already decided not renew its sponsorship package and now Sony has followed suit. The latter deal, which ran for eight years, was estimated to be a whopping GBP178m.

Sports fans the world over are fed up with FIFA and smart brands will pay heed and either call for change from within the camp or leave it.

A very quick recap on FIFA is that it has long since had a taint of corruption about it, and so when a full-scale report into its activities was promised, few felt the process would be as thorough as suggested. Thus, when the edited report was finally released, the investigator who researched the organisation claimed the abridged version did not fully sum up his work, which was far more critical of the organisation.

There is little doubt that the stink of corruption has played a part in Emirates, and now Sony dropping FIFA at the earliest opportunity and it will no doubt be the central question Coca-Cola now has to ask itself given that it has publicly revealed misgivings about the organisation's governance. To carry on without reform would surely see the world's most iconic fizzy drink brand supporting an organisation it now has reason to believe is corrupt? Wouldn't it? Come to think of it. How will Qatar's record on human rights play out when compared to the company's CSR values?

So corruption is an obvious reason for dropping FIFA like a hot potato. There's an even more obvious reason, however, and it's digital marketing -- particularly social.

Throughout the previous World Cup, report after report showed that consumers struggled to differentiate official sponsors from their biggest rivals. Was it Coca-Cola or Pepsi, Sony or Samsung, Visa or MasterCard, Adidas or Nike, Budweiser or Carling? Few people were in the know at the start of the competition, and to make matter worse, by and large, it didn't improve significantly during the tournament. 

The reasons are obvious. Rivals spent a fortune on multichannel campaigns to create a lot of buzz and association with the event. They were quick to drill the message home with the medium that proved to be invaluable in 2014 -- social media. Nobody owns football, just the right to use the FIFA and World Cup names. So brands were completely free to kick off and join in conversations with fans. They were also at liberty to show their fizzy drink or sports gear being enjoyed by football stars who just happened to come from Brazil. 

It was guerrilla warfare in the wide open and social was the core, keeping the conversations and hashtags going, making sure the messages kept running long after an expensive TV slot has passed.

Top-tier brands could always argue in the past that it was best to be in the driving seat, closely associated with FIFA. Now that FIFA has an infectious stench of corruption about it, that can no longer hold true.

Brands at that level are going to have to ask themselves what else they could do with GBP178m. I rather suspect many will look at Pepsi and Nike and realise that level of budget buys you an awful lot of creative talent and sports stars that are more than happy to kick a ball about sipping your drink or wearing your label. It also leaves an awful lot of budget aside to promote all that activity in social media. 

Put very bluntly, there was already a very good reason to ditch FIFA. Digital marketing provides a very compelling second reason. 

Expect more to follow suit and expect those who don't to be asked some very searching questions. Two out of FIFA's six "partners" have already walked and a third, Coca-Cola is publicly unhappy. Kia, Visa and Adidas... your move next.

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