Despite the 2022 FIFA World Cup controversy, the international competition still arouses as much interest from football fans and brands. The World Cup is taking place in Qatar from November 20 to December 18, 2022. This is the first World Cup to be held in the Arab world and also currently the most expensive World Cup ever, with an estimated cost of over $220 billion.
Why is the organization of the World Cup in Qatar a problem?
Sponsorships, by nature, are trying to enhance brands’ image by associating them with positive events, in this case the World Cup. Why is the organization of the World Cup in Qatar a problem?
Qatar is a totalitarian state; there are violations of human rights and in particular, those of women, LGBTQ+ people, and foreign workers. Environmental concerns are also an issue: air-conditioned stadiums open to the outside, and air shuttles to access accommodation. The sponsors find themselves alongside a country that has been sidelined by the international community, which risks jeopardizing their image objectives.
Could sponsors see a benefit in this?
Similar controversy already arose during the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The outrage of fans and the public seems to be short-lived though – when an event creates a scandal, it attracts attention. Over time it looks like the public no longer makes the connection between the reason for that attention -people remember the event. Many brands seem to be banking on that and trying to make silent statements, while still pouring heavy budgets to reserve their sponsorship spot.
FIFA’s argument is that the event must reach its audiences in Africa and Asia (the Middle East making the connection) and offer its sponsors new markets.
Brands get creative in making statements
With strict rules imposed to players, sponsors and fans many got creative in making statements and communicating their support for the causes they stand for, regardless of the organizers’ regulations.
In agreement with its equipment supplier, the Danish team will wear a black jersey to signify mourning for humanist values. Some teams will wear a simple armband.
Germany protested by holding their hands over their mouths after the OneLove armband was banned. Six players also wore boots with rainbow stitching to show support for the LGBTQ+ community, and the entire team wore tops with rainbow sleeves during their warm-up. Their act was reinforced by the German interior minister, Nancy Faeser, who also wore a OneLove armband as she sat next to FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino during the game.
The Iranian team chose not to sing their national anthem in protest against their own government. Iran fans brought signs to the World Cup reading ‘Woman. Life. Freedom’ – the protests’ call to action.
Japan’s team also wore an Adidas training kit with rainbow sleeves during warm ups, before changing into their usual blue kit. Belgium and Canadian players were spotted wearing Adidas trainers with rainbows on them too.
To become partners or sponsors of the competition, brands must put their hands deep in their pockets. In total, the 2022 FIFA World Cup has 27 official brand sponsorship partners with prime marketing rights, with a total of $1.7 billion estimated to be generated by sponsorships. The average sponsorship cost is estimated at $63.26 million over the current four-year World Cup rights cycle. This high price tag means that only the most prominent international brands are able to fund such a partnership.
GlobalData’s report, ‘Business of the FIFA 2022 World Cup’, estimates that 15 of the 27 brands partnering directly with the tournament in 2022 are making their FIFA World Cup partnership debut. Seven of the partnerships announced thus far already hold a value worth in excess of $100 million for this tournament cycle.
The FIFA World Cup is the biggest sporting competition on the planet, bar none. While the Super Bowl often claims to be the biggest sporting show every year come February, the reality is that its viewing numbers and commercial value pale in comparison to the FIFA World Cup. No other competition offers brands an opportunity to promote their products and services on as large or as wide as a scale as the premium soccer competition. Its unparalleled position in the sports market equates to a higher price point in the sponsorship market, as the biggest brands look to ensure visibility at the biggest international event.
Jake Kemp, Sport Analyst at GlobalData
Calm is a software company situated in the San Francisco Bay Area. It creates meditation products, such as guided meditations and Sleep Stories. The #1 app for sleep, meditation and relaxation is the ‘Official Mindfulness and Meditation Product’ of the FIFA World Cup 2022, FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 and FIFAe Nations Cup 2023.
All players, workforce personnel and 25,000 volunteers at upcoming FIFA tournaments will receive free Calm subscriptions; Fans will get access to heavily discounted offers for Calm.
And if you wonder if their choice of a domain has anything to do with Calm’s success, investor Jason Calacanis quoted the domain name as one of the reasons he invested in Calm in its early days.
Established in 1964, QNB Group has steadily grown to become the biggest bank in Qatar and the largest financial institution in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. Proud to be the Official Middle East and Africa Supporter of the FIFA World Cup 2022, QNB Group extends through its subsidiaries and associate companies to more than 30 countries across three continents providing a comprehensive range of advanced products and services.
Global Recognition comes in many forms and this is the next step in working towards our stated global banking ambitions. The QNB Brand has been at the heart of our recent expansion drive and it seems only fitting that this momentum is complemented by the establishment of a global domain website address. QNB.com is a symbol of both our vision and our ambitions and we firmly believe that this will be a major step in our drive to become a Middle East and Africa Icon by 2017.
Ali Rashid Al-Mohannadi, QNB Group Executive General Manager and Chief Operating Officer
Founded in 1944 as Kyungsung Precision Industry, today Kia is South Korea’s second largest automobile manufacturer. Kia declared bankruptcy in 1997, during the Asian financial crisis, and in 1998 reached an agreement with Hyundai (also a FIFA World Cup sponsor) to diversify by exchanging ownership between the two companies.
The brand name KIA stands for KI or “To Rise From” and A or Asia, « to rise from Asia ».
Crypto was founded in 2016. In 2018, Monaco (MCO) – the cryptocurrency visa card company, purchased the domain Crypto.com for $12 million. The domain name was registered back in 1993 by Matt Blaze, a professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania. A curious find is an old page from Matt’s website stating he has no association with the Crypto company.
Crypto is not new to sport sponsorships, in December 2021 The Staples Center, home of the Lakers and Clippers from 1999-2021, got the name Crypto.com Arena. Crypto.com paid more than $700 million for the 20-year naming rights, according to the Times.
After FTX’s rapid collapse questions have been swirling around Crypto.com, leading to CEO Kris Marszalek taking to Twitter, YouTube to try to reassure customers that their deposits are safe and the company is on solid footing. We’ll see if the FIFA sponsorship helps!
Founded in 2009 by Shen Wei, with headquarters in Dongguan and Guangdong, China, today Vivo has expanded to over 100 countries around the world. International expansion began in 2014, when the company entered the Thailand market. The brand has already been the official smartphone brand of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and is now a second time sponsor. VIVO also has a deal with UEFA as an official partner of the UEFA Euro 2020 and UEFA Euro 2024.
For quite some time, the company operated on vivo.com.cn, vivo.cn, and other local domain extensions for its branches in different countries. In 2016 Vivo invested $2,1M to secure vivo.com, acquiring it from its previous owner, RealNetworks Inc. The name used to point to Real.com, suggesting that RealNetworks has a serious domain name strategy. You can see that it can pay off not only by effective marketing for its products but also by selling assets that are no longer needed for its brands.
Only two companies have chosen to operate on an alternative to the .com extension. The .com is the gold standard for reliability and highlights the brand’s credibility. It is the largest top-level domain with over 130 million .com names registered, making it the natural choice of internet users.
Twenty three out of the twenty seven sponsors have domain names that exactly match their brand names. That ensures effective marketing as people can easily make the connection and reach the company online.
Two of the twenty seven brands have secured three letter domain names for their brands – Kia and QNB, respectively on Kia.com and QNB.com. Three letter domains are rare and valuable due to the fact they are easy to remember and can be used as acronyms. There are over 50,000 character combinations you can make with three characters and by 1997 all of them are registered in .com. Over 60% of those are in use by companies, like ABC, YSL, IBM, HTC and the likes, and will likely not be available for decades to come.
CVCV domain names
CVCV is an acronym for consonant-vowel consonant-vowel. There are 15,876 possible CVCV combinations with the Latin alphabet. Couple the appeal of those combinations with that of the .com as a global extension and you have a rare class of assets – CVCV premium domains. In this year’s World Cup, three brands have those type of names – Visa.com, Vivo.com and Xero.com.