Blatter's Gone -- Which Sponsor Will Stand For Something We Can Connect With Now?

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday I was suggesting that brands need to grow a spine with FIFA and the very same afternoon (nothing to do with me, of course) Blatter resigns. You'll be pleased to hear that he and his daughter have been at pains to point out to the media that this has nothing to do with the FBI corruption investigation in which he is now apparently implicated (quelle surprise!). No, it's because of another issue they don't spell out. Can you feel a "Yeah, right!" spreading round the globe?

So what is the point of bringing this up again today? Well, the big FIFA sponsors have issued statements saying they welcome the news and thank Blatter (yes, that's right, they thank him) for his hard work. The interesting part is they all pretty much agree on a form of words that says it is their understanding that change will now happen, transparency will be welcomed and everyone will live happily ever after.

Is it just me, or is this a little weak? If you searched hard enough you're bound to find statements from the likes of Visa, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Adidas (to name a few of the sponsors) who have gone on about connecting with the public in a real, open dialogue. It's the kind of stuff conference speeches are filled with when CMOs talk about developing new trust-based relationships with consumers. Trouble is, brands so often publicly act in a different way.

Why has not a single sponsor come out and told it the way it is? Why has not a single sponsor stamped its foot and said something along the lines of the corruption has to stop, an immediate investigation has to be launched into the Russian and Qatari bids and, ultimately, if any wrong doing is suspected, they need to be run again? Sure, it might be too late for Russia -- but we have seven years before the 2022 World Cup, currently due to be held in Qatar. 

Brands are always at pains to say how they stand for something real because they know that people like to consume goods and services from companies who share their values. Well, how on earth does any of what they say stack up against their position of waiting for the FBI to arrest FIFA executives and then when the top man himself goes just giving a mild round of applause with a "please do better next time" response?

Brands that can be so strong in campaigns, like Adidas' "There Will Be Haters," suddenly shrink when they need to do something in the real world other than put some eye catching words next to a celebrity with a pair of football boots. 

So -- here it is, major sponsors. Here is your opportunity to shine. Either on your own or en masse, you need to stand for something. The first big name that says it will not commit tens of millions of dollars to the next World Cup until an impartial investigation has proven the process was run without a whiff of corruption will have my undying loyalty. Unless it's McDonald's, of course, my views on them being too stupid for words have been made clear -- any food retailer that doesn't embrace meat-reducing or avoiding families or children is just too dumb to warrant loyalty.

Of course, none of this will happen. The brands concerned are too excited about going to the R in the Bric group of growth economies (that's Brazil, Russia, India and China) and taking their wares to the first Arab World Cup.

So we will have the irony of these brands lining up behind FIFA's "Fair Play" awards and "Respect" armbands worn by players at the same time as choosing not to ask any difficult questions or lift any stones in case there are cockroaches underneath.

There's a chance here, though, for one brand to shine out, particularly if they're fed up with spending millions on an event people rarely know they are sponsoring and, even worse, often think a rival is a sponsor due to it filling the airwaves with ads. 

So, sponsors -- in the words of the ten-year-old me, I double dare you to stand up for something and not hide behind PR statements. In the words of a brand you'll see at the event but isn't the sponsor, despite what people may actually think -- Just Do It!

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