Three years ago Emirate Airlines threatened FIFA with the loss of millions as a main sponsor due to corruption allegations. On Monday, it is being reported that the airline has followed through on its long-standing threat, and will not renew its sponsorship agreement for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
However, it may not have been the threat of three years ago that mattered, as it appears dollars and cents meant everything to the non-renewal.
“This decision was made following an evaluation of FIFA’s contract proposal which did not meet Emirates’ expectations,” the airline said in a statement.
Its an interesting move for the Dubai-based airline, as the 2022 World Cup is set to take place in the Middle East country of Qatar.
According to FIFA’s financial disclosures, the six 2014 World Cup partners — Adidas, Coca-Cola, Emirates, Hyundai, Sony, Visa — combined to pay about $700 million for the four-year commercial cycle.
The “Fly Emirates” logo can be seen spread across nearly all major European competitions, including the Champions League, major teams like PSG, Arsenal and Real Madrid to name a few. Additionally, the company hired the legendary Pele and reigning World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, as spokesmen for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Three years ago, the airline was very upset over the perceived corruption in soccer’s world governing body, going as far as to state, “We are seriously thinking about not renewing our partnership with FIFA beyond 2014.”
Don’t fret though…FIFA seems to have a favored replacement in you guessed it…Qatar Airlines. Given the threat stated three years ago, its no surprise that FIFA would have a replacement all lined up. Still, it may not help with an appearance of non-corrupt dealings.
It will be interesting to see how global brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s look at their sponsorships as Russia is a huge market for both brands.
However, losing one of the brands that sees soccer as an integral part of its global marketing strategy has to worry FIFA.
Corruption allegations and major issues in Qatar (from weather to working conditions for stadium construction workers) have clearly spooked a major sponsor. Another could be on its way out too, as Sony are rumored to be seriously considering the same move as Emirates Airlines.
If there is any hope to clean up FIFA for the future, major sponsors starting to hit the governing body in the pocket book is about as good a chance as any at this point.