Are your favorite brands backing an alleged criminal conspiracy polluting the world’s beautiful game?
The arrest of senior FIFA officials to be tried in the US on corruption charges is the huge blow to the soccer organization’s brazen culture, but the message won’t really get through until the corporate sponsors that provide the organization’s funding demand change. FIFA won’t change its ways until chief Sepp Blatter is personally indicted—or the money runs out.
We’re looking at you, Coca-Cola, Adidas, McDonalds, Hyundai, Visa, Budweiser, and Gazprom. Well, maybe not Gazprom.
It’s hard to imagine the big World Cup television deals that provide most of the funding going away. The problem with FIFA’s history of scandal is always that it can hide behind the massive popularity of the sport it brings, and someone will always pony up to broadcast the global soccer competition.
But the sponsors who are paying simply to associate their brands with FIFA—$1.6 billion alone in 2014—have a bit more leeway to walk away, as Sony did last year. That’s especially true as some clever firms have already dodged both the fees and the ethical complications to share their message at the World Cup.
Here’s our rundown, which will be updating, of how the big seven FIFA partners and sponsors for the 2018 World Cup in Russia are responding to the news of todays arrests and other FIFA scandals:
The global payments company said that if FIFA does not change its culture soon, Visa would need to reassess its sponsorship:
Our disappointment and concern with FIFA in light of today’s developments is profound. As a sponsor, we expect FIFA to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organization. This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere.
Visa became a sponsor of FIFA because the World Cup is one of the few truly global sporting events with the power to unite people from around the world through a common love of football. Our sponsorship has always focused on supporting the teams, enabling a great fan experience, and inspiring communities to come together and celebrate the spirit of competition and personal achievement – and it is important that FIFA makes changes now, so that the focus remain on these going forward. Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.
An Adidas representative tells Quartz:
The Adidas Group is fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance, and we expect the same from our partners. Following today’s news, we can therefore only encourage FIFA to continue to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do.
Adidas is the world’s leading football brand and we will continue to support football on all levels.
A spokesperson says the company is in touch with FIFA already:
McDonald’s takes matters of ethics and corruption very seriously and the news from the U.S. Department of Justice is extremely concerning. We are in contact with FIFA on this matter. We will continue to monitor the situation very closely.
The company says the arrests have “tarnished” FIFA:
This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations. We expect FIFA to continue to address these issues thoroughly. FIFA has stated that it is responding to all requests for information and we are confident it will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities.
When FIFA quashed an internal corruption investigation in November, the soda giant told Quartz:
Anything that detracts from the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup is a concern to us. The current conflicting perspectives regarding the investigation are disappointing. Our expectation is that this will be resolved quickly in a transparent and efficient manner.
The company sent us this statement:
As a company that place the highest priority on ethical standards and transparency, Hyundai Motor is extremely concerned about the legal proceedings being taken against certain FIFA executives and will continue to monitor the situation closely.
The Russian oil giant has not responded to requests for comment from Quartz, but Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kuprianov spoke with CNN on Thursday about the situation.
Of course, Gazprom’s sponsorship agreement is not affected by the situation around FIFA. How can this situation affect it? It simply can’t. It’s unrelated.
We are still waiting for comment.