On the heels of several major sponsors deciding not to re-up their relationships with FIFA, many wondered if corporate isolation, rather than appointing a new president, was the real avenue to FIFA reform. But the question assumes a finite number of sponsors or an almost ungodly amount of shaming resources. The reality is, a deeper pool of potential sponsors lie waiting in the shadows, ready to gobble up a portion of the spoils that come with FIFA affiliation, and there isn’t quite enough of a global shame infrastructure to keep all prospective partners at bay.
As it stands, five FIFA sponsors — Sony, Emirates, Castrol, Continental and Johnson & Johnson — have passed on renewing FIFA sponsorship deals that expired at the end of 2014. While that sounds like a big deal, since these corporate behemoths walked away, other massive, global corporations have strolled into their absence, ready to try on FIFA’s large, abandoned sandals.
Gazprom — the world’s largest oil company, headquartered in Russia — has already signed on as a FIFA sponsor. In late 2013, when the oil giant joined forces with FIFA, Gazprom already had Zenit St. Petersburg, Schalke 04, Red Star Belgrade, and Chelsea FC in its portfolio, and has been an official UEFA Champions League partner since the 2012-13 season. Qatar Airways is also reportedly deep into FIFA sponsorship negotiations, and would seamlessly fit into the space that Emirates voided.
FIFA casually describes the sponsor attrition at the end of 2014 as commonplace. According to FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil:
“Rotations at the end of a sponsorship cycle are commonplace in the sports industry and have continuously occurred since the commercialization of the FIFA World Cup began. It is natural that as brands’ strategies evolve they reassess their sponsorship properties. The contracts with Castrol, Continental and Johnson & Johnson were always planned to run until the end of 2014 and therefore expired on December 31, 2014 accordingly.
“As in previous FIFA World Cup cycles, we are now in advanced negotiations with a number of companies related to sponsorship agreements in all three of our categories, ranging from tier 1 FIFA partners, tier 2 FIFA World Cup sponsors and tier 3 regional supporters.”
The following diagram adds a little color to FIFA’s new system (via FIFA.com):
Soccer’s governing body explains:
“Ahead of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup™, FIFA will offer companies the opportunity to purchase regional sponsorship packages for the first time. Announced at the end of 2013, the new commercial structure will provide significant opportunities and value for interested companies. The diagram [above] depicts how FIFA’s three-tier sponsorship structure will be implemented for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup™ tournaments.”
So there you have it. FIFA didn’t want you anyway, old sponsors. It has a new plan and aims to diversify its sponsor portfolio, presumably to broaden income streams and lessen the blow of sponsors walking away. You know, economics and such.
Given these new channels, allow me to propose an out-of-the-box partnership: The Soccer Gods as a new FIFA sponsor. Here’s why it could make sense:
- The Soccer Gods and Fusion’s target audience is millennials. Now, although we don’t quite know exactly what a millennial is or what it does, we know for a fact that the fabled millennial is younger than everyone even marginally related to FIFA. Furthermore, Wikipedia probably suggests that millennials are going to be running the planet in a few years. It’s a demographic worth knowing. In return, we’ll have old FIFA on the show in a “Whatever happened to” segment.
- We kind of know Jorge Ramos, and we may be able to set up a one-on-one with one of FIFA’s big-wigs when it all goes wrong.
- We have dibs on the No You Shut Up! puppets, in the off chance that one of them develops an addiction and wants to join Soccer Gods while pulling its life together. We’re a tolerant bunch. And the markets you need increasingly love tolerance. We speak to that.
- Speaking of tolerance, let’s end this by talking about Russia and Qatar. Sometimes tolerance involves looking the other way. Often, we have no choice but to do that because soccer is always on, and we watch way too much of it. Basically, we want the same things.
But … but there’s one caveat: We aren’t paying. Our official position is that we bring too much to the table to pay for the “privilege” of becoming a FIFA sponsor. We will, however, accept payment, preferably in brown envelopes slid across large mahogany tables. Because all we really want out of this is to know how it feels to be wanted, to be needed. And remember, if you have DirecTV, Fusion has just been added. You can find us on channel 342.