The FIFA Scandals + Your Brand Image
June 5th 2015
This week was the start of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer tournament and finally a reason to celebrate my personal favorite sport. While soccer, both the men’s and women’s game, still pale in comparison to other major sports in this country (much to the chagrin of this writer), the recent uncovering of the FIFA corruption scandal has the sport’s “world governing body” splashed across the front pages of major American newspapers, websites, and being covered on all news broadcasting stations. “Dear World: We don’t even like soccer and we’re still going to clean up FIFA. Love, America,” tweeted The Upshot’s Josh Barro.
Last week, Sepp Blatter President of FIFA resigned amidst a growing corruption scandal but even before that, earlier this year, our Mfa and MFAction teams began working on a project with one of our consumer products clients designed to highlight even more FIFA wrongdoings: the Federation’s complicity in Qatar’s violations of international law by abusing the rights of foreign laborers, both before and after awarding the country the 2022 men’s soccer World Cup. Rather than directly go directly after FIFA, our client, the Chairman of popular sports apparel brand SKINS Compression Sportswear, became the incredible driving force behind a campaign to address these human rights violations, a campaign aimed at putting pressure on FIFA corporate sponsors to address these atrocities and to demand reform.In a bold move, SKINS has appointed itself as an Official Non-Sponsor of FIFA and has publicly challenged the ‘hypocrisy’ of FIFA’s major partners who remain silent as their individual positions in support of basic human rights are potentially compromised.
As a result of our collective outreach efforts – and stepping outside of our own comfort zone to stand up for what is right alongside a client partner – influential media outlets from National Public Radio to AdAge to Bloomberg have covered the campaign. Check out this recent interview SKINS Chairman Jaimie Fuller did on CNBC. Current FIFA mega sponsor Coca-Cola has now even agreed to meet with Fuller on this issue to discuss the issues on the table.
Other major brands, it has been reported, may also be involved in the various layers of these FIFA scandals and international soccer politics, from DirecTV and 21st Century Fox, to other sportswear and apparel brands. We counsel our clients on a daily basis that the most important elements of their brand messaging and externally facing persona are the people and companies with whom they choose to partner. And, those you don’t partner with are often just as important as you do end up aligning with.
Hopefully we’ll see overall reform of FIFA and an end to the human rights atrocities in Qatar sooner rather than later, and former sponsors will start paying attention now long before the 2022 World Cup, as early, in fact, as this month’s Women’s World Cup.
By Silvie Snow-Thomas, Director, MFAction
Silvie Snow-Thomas is the Director of MFAction, Mfa’s division for social good marketing and communications. The MFAction team specializes in campaign development, original content creation, authentic storytelling, and landing impact-driven media coverage that makes a difference for our nonprofit and for-profit/for-purpose clients. Silvie is a storyteller, an activist, believes a water filter can change the world, and that a plastic bottle has nine lives. When she isn’t at Mfa or adventuring in Brooklyn and beyond, she can be found on the soccer field, watching the beautiful game, or consuming every piece of content being published about her favorite sport.