The Brand World Cup 2022 … audiences, sponsors, innovations and players brought together with a love of football … amidst the controversies of Qatar

November 21, 2022

Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup 2022 has certainly proved to be the most controversial in history – the murky bribery scandal that led to it being awarded, the $200 billion development of the infrastructure amidst the concern for migrant workers, and the continued ethical concerns of supporting a nation with values very different from many others.

Here, I’m focused on the business of football. And what makes the World Cup the world’s biggest sporting festival, bringing more nations and people together than any other event. Challenging for football supremacy, celebrating the diversity of nations and humankind, and one of the commercial world’s biggest brand sponsorship moments.

Audience

FIFA predicts a 5 billion global TV audience for its 2022 tournament.

In 25 of the 31 countries measured by Kantar, football is ranked the #1 sport and only in US (4th ranked), Canada (5th) and Australia (6th) is football outside the top #2. Out of 160 national and local sporting events, the FIFA World Cup is ranked the most followed event worldwide with almost 70% of all adults following the tournament.

55% of all adults questioned worldwide say they plan to watch at least some part of the World Cup. according to Ipsos. Viewing intent exceeds 75% in the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Brazil, and India.

Countries with the largest proportions of football followers are, in order: Indonesia (69%), Saudi Arabia (67%), the United Arab Emirates (65%), and India (60%). The next tier consists of Argentina (51%), Brazil (50%), South Africa (50%), and Peru (49%). In contrast, fewer than one in five in Japan (14%), Canada (15%), Hungary (18%), and The United States (19%) describe themselves as football followers.

87% of the audience are under 45, with an even split 50-50 male and female … 40% of the audience are likely to be 25-34 year olds, 25% 35-44, and 22% 18 -24, according to Digital Turbine. This is vastly different from the Super Bowl in the USA, where the majority of the audience are over 45.

Only 13% of World Cup viewers globally said they only watch football during World Cup matches, but nearly half (49%) watch every week or more frequently than that. 57% prefer watching at home, while 16% are likely to go to the stadium, and 15% prefer a bar or cafe. At home, 55% watch on TV/Cable, while 38% use their smartphone.

In terms of advertising effectiveness, 54% of viewers are likely to look up an ad aired during the World Cup and watch it again, and 83% of World Cup viewers are likely to consider purchasing a product that they have seen advertised.

Nielsen have a great report here: Fans are changing the game

Sponsors

Watch any World Cup game, and your eyes are quickly drawn to the digital, dynamic advertising boards around the pitch. Many viewers will be asking themselves, who actually are Byju’s, Hisense and Wanda.

Some sponsors will be familiar, particularly those who are FIFA’s long-term “partners”, while others are specific to this tournament:

Adidas: The German sportswear brand’s partnership with the governing body of world football dates back to the 1970s. Adidas has been the Official Match Ball supplier since that year and has also provided uniforms for all FIFA officials, referees, player escorts, ball crew and volunteers. The current contract granting Adidas Official Partner, Supplier and Licensee rights for all FIFA events lasts until 2030.

Coca-Cola: The Atlanta-based drinks business has been part of the World Cup since 1950. In 1978 it became an official sponsor, and since 2006, it has “exclusively activated the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour”. In collaboration with The Panini Group, the Italian publishing company known for producing football collectibles, Coke releases digital and physical stickers. It also sponsors the FIFA World Rankings for both the men’s and the women’s national teams. Its current deal runs until 2030.

Wanda Group: The Beijing-based media business, who has a portfolio of media and production businesses, sports and entertainment venues, became the first-ever Chinese company to partner with FIFA in 2016, when it obtained FIFA’s highest level of sponsorship rights to cover all FIFA-affiliated tournaments and corporate activities until 2030. The company was founded in Dalian in 1988 as a residential real estate company by Wang Jianlin, and now has investments across many industries including construction, entertainment, media, industrial manufacturing, financial services, high technology, hospitality, real estate, retail, healthcare, and sports.

Hyundai: Car brands Hyundai and Kia are both subsidiaries of Seoul-based South Korean chaebol Hyundai Motor Group. Hyundai’s association with FIFA first began in 1999, and Kia entered the fold in 2006. Hyundai has been serving FIFA as its official ground transportation provider for the World Cups since 2006, supplying its fleet of vehicles to carry personnel ranging from high-ranking FIFA officials to media teams.

Qatar Airways: The Doha-based flag carrier airline has been the Official Airline of FIFA since 2017. The current deal between the two parties sees Qatar Airways sponsor all FIFA tournaments until the end of the 2022. It launched the official travel packages for fans interested in attending the quadrennial footballing extravaganza.

QatarEnergy: The state-owned petroleum company first partnered with FIFA for the 2021 Arab Cup in December 2021. In 2022, the company was announced as a FIFA Partner in a deal set to cover this year’s cup, but not beyond that. More like a local one-off sponsor, than partner.

Visa: The global financial services provider has been a global sponsor of FIFA and its Official Payment Technology Partner since 2007. Visa offers exclusive payment service for all FIFA-affiliated stores and events and also works with the governing body to create co-branded unique programmes for the fans. Visa is the world’s second-largest card payment organization (debit and credit cards combined), after being surpassed by China UnionPay in 2015. However it is still considered the dominant bankcard company in the rest of the world, where it commands a 50% market share of total card payments, and is currently the world’s most valuable financial services company.

Xero: New Zealand’s small-business management platform Xero was announced as a FIFA Women’s Football Partner in 2022, seeking to “champion women’s football and to further empower women working in small businesses and their communities around the world”. It will also support FIFA women’s football development programmes.

Algorand: Promoting itself as a “green blockchain technology company”, Algorand is FIFA’s official blockchain partner. Apart from branding rights, the deal entails Algorand providing FIFA official blockchain-supported wallet solutions while also working with the governing body over developing its digital assets strategy. Algorand was founded in 2017 by Silvio Micali, a professor at MIT. It is intended to solve the “blockchain trilema”: the claim that any blockchain system can have at most two of three desirable properties: decentralization, scalability, and security.

Calm: the San Francisco-based wellness company, partnered with FIFA  to make its online platform the Official Mindfulness and Meditation Product of the FIFA World Cup 2022. Apart from branding rights, the deal also means Calm free subscriptions are offered to players, workers and volunteers, and to fans at reduced rates. Calm was founded in 2012 by Michael Acton Smith and Alex Tew. Calm was Apple’s “App of the Year” in 2017, and Calm Health was released in 2022 and offered through traditional healthcare providers, payers, and self-insured employers.

These are the specific 2022 sponsors:

Budweiser: The Anheuser-Busch InBev-brewed beer has been the official beer sponsor of the men’s FIFA World Cup for over 35 years now, with the 2022 event set to be its tenth World Cup. 3 days before the 2022 tournament opened, the organisers withdrew beer sales from stadia, prompting Budweiser to tweet “This is awkward” but also potentially opening a huge contractual claim.

BYJU’S: The Bangalore-headquartered Indian edtech firm was announced as a sponsor of the 2022 World Cup in March 2022. The partnership allows Byju’S to use the World Cup branding to promote its brand across the world. The company also works towards creating educational content for young football fans worldwide. It is an Indian multinational educational technology company. It was founded in 2011 by Byju Raveendran and Divya Gokulnath. In 2022, Byju’s is valued at $22 billion with 115 million registered students.

Crypto: The Singapore-based cryptocurrency exchange platform was announced as an Official Sponsor of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ as well as its exclusive cryptocurrency trading platform in March 2022. Apart from branding rights, the partnership entails the two parties collaborating over awareness initiatives revolving around the platform. It also entails Crypto.com offering its users unique matchday experiences and opportunities to win merchandise.

Hisense: The Qingdao-headquartered Chinese electronics giant joined the roster of FIFA Commercial Affiliates and was announced as an Official Sponsor of the 2022 World Cup in April 2021. The partnership entails collaboration between the two parties over projects ranging from on-site activations to global ad campaigns.

McDonald’s: The Chicago-headquartered American fast-food giant has been a FIFA World Cup sponsor for over two decades. Throughout the quadrennial event, McDonald’s branding appears most prominently on the uniforms of the child mascots who accompany the players as they walk out on the pitch before a game. For the 2018 World Cup, McDonald’s was also the principal sponsor of the tournament’s official fantasy football game. The last renewal between FIFA and McDonald’s was announced in October 2014 and confirmed McDonald’s sponsorship of the World Cup until Qatar 2022.

China Mengniu Dairy Company: The Causeway Bay, Hong Kong-headquartered Chinese dairy products manufacturer was onboarded by FIFA as a second-tier World Cup sponsor for Russia 2018 in December 2017. In October 2021, China Mengniu Dairy Company was confirmed as a sponsor for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Vivo: The Dongguan-headquartered Chinese tech company became a sponsor in 2017 in a deal covering both Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022.  FIFA made vivo the exclusive smartphone sponsor for the 2021 Arab Cup, which was also held in Qatar.

Roblox: The online game creation platform was announced as a FIFA World Cup sponsor in 2022.The partnership entails creation and development of FIFA World, described as “a virtual environment that celebrates the power of football and the rich history of its pinnacle events”. This free-to-access virtual theme park is set to be developed over the course of the 2022 World Cup and offer football fans unique experiences, events and access to bespoke content from the FIFA+ library.

Hublot: The Nyon-headquartered Swiss watchmaker returned as the Official Timekeeper of the FIFA Men’s World Cup with a limited-edition watch designed to offer the football fans a unique experience. 15 minutes before each game in the tournament, the watch will display its user team line-ups and player profiles. The kick-off will send the watch into “match mode” and activate “timeline” that will allow the user to capture in-game moments. These moments will be replayable throughout the course of the match. Hublot is also “timing” all games at the World Cup, with all 129 official referees set to wear Hublot watches to assist them in their officiating throughout the tournament.

The Look Company: Based in Barrie, Ontario, the global visual engagement solutions provider was announced as a Regional Supporter of the 2022 World Cup in April 2022. As per the deal, the company will look forward to leveraging the partnership to “showcase its stadium dressing and signage capabilities to 3.5 billion viewers around the world”. In the past, The Look Company has also provided branding and signage solutions to FIFA for the 2019 Club World Cup.

Algorand: Promoting itself as a “green blockchain technology company”, Algorand was announced as FIFA’s official blockchain platform in May 2022. Apart from branding rights, the deal entails Algorand providing FIFA official blockchain-supported wallet solutions while also working with the governing body over developing its digital assets strategy. The deal also makes Algorand a Regional Supporter of the Qatar World Cup in North America and Europe as well as an Official Sponsor of the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Frito-Lay: PepsiCo-owned, Plano, Texas-headquartered Frito-Lay became the first-ever salty-snack brand to collaborate with FIFA for the World Cup when it was announced as the 2022 WC’s North American Regional Supporter in June 2022. The partnership entails digital activations and advertising opportunities on the world football’s biggest stage and include the following Frito-Lay brands: Lay’s, Doritos, Cheetos, Tostitos, Ruffles, Sabritas, Quaker and Gamesa.

Teams

Team sponsors are less diverse. Adidas and Nike still dominate the uniforms and footwear of most teams and players.

Of the 32 nations, 13 will be sporting Nike kits (Qatar, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, France, Croatia, England, Netherlands, South Korea, Canada, Portugal, USA, Australia), and 7 Adidas (Germany, Belgium, Spain, Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Wales).

Adidas shares lost 6% market cap during the 2018 World Cup, when heavily favoured Germany, an Adidas team, was knocked out early and the FIFA tournament was won by France, a Nike team. Nike gained 4% during the same period, beating the S&P 500’s 1% gain.

For these sporting superbrands, this is probably their biggest “brand engagement” moment of each 4 years, and their advertising is some of the most anticipated:

Nike calls it the “Footballverse” with a series of advertising spots starting with “an international team of scientists at a secret lab in Switzerland finally cracked the code. They’ve written the formula that will put an end to any discussion—the ultimate battle of all football generations … With the push of a button, they bring us legendary players from the past and present. A crazy experiment unfolds. Watch now to find out if the world of science can find a way to settle the score.”

Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Cristiano Ronaldo, CR Jr., Edgar Davids, Kevin De Bruyne, Kylian Mbappé, Leah Williamson, Phil Foden, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo Nazário, Sam Kerr, Shane Kluivert and Virgil van Dijk star in the video.

Adidas continue their “Impossible is Nothing” tagline, but with a family theme: “This is our family. Every World Cup, we all get together to prove that impossible is nothing.”

This spot features some of their biggest individual stars, plus a few from beyond football: Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema, Achraf Hakimi, Son Heung-Min, Jude Bellingham, Pedro ‘Pedri’ González López, Serge Gnabry and Stormzy.

Players

Argentina’s Lionel Messi is probably the world’s popular footballer.

He earns around $55 million annually from brand endorsements (Adidas, Huawei, Gatorade, MasterCard, Lay’s, Pepsi, Hawkers, Ooredoo, Gillette, Turkish Airlines), which is more than his Paris St Germain salary of $65 million per year.

The 34 year old, probably in his last World Cup, has a net wealth of around $600 million.

Messi has invested in property. Around his birthplace of Rosario in Argentina, for example, he has put money into the Azahares del Parana project (a set of gated communities out of the city) as well as an apartment building in the city centre.

There’s also his lifestyle brand, The Messi Store.

Like many footballers, Messi has also dipped his toe into the investment worlds of cryptocurrency and NFTs, working in partnership with Ethernity, a company which also works with Pele and Luka Modric among others.

Portugal’s Christiano Ronaldo is a more controversial figure.

He is said to earn $60 million through endorsements (with Nike, Tag Heuer, Clean Haircare, Herbalife) and $40 million through his salary, previously with Manchester United until his recent bust-up with the manager. It seems his arrogance was too much for a team player, and he no longer respected or listened to manager or club.

His seven floor mansion is in his home town of Funchal, Madeira.  The construction of the estate was finished four years after the ex-Madrid star bought the warehouse located there for an undisclosed sum and it’s believed to have cost around €8m. He has an apartment in Trump Tower, New York worth $18.5 million

He launched his CR7 clothing brand a decade ago. Starting with underwear, he then moved into fragrance, footwear, shirts, gyms, jeans company and restaurants, all under the CR7 brand. He also invested $60 million in launching a global hotel chain with Pestana Hotel Group under the brand Pestana CR7.

Ronaldo is 3 years older than Messi, and has scored more career goals (804 in 1106 games, ie 0.72/game) however the Argentinian has the better average (0.79 goals/game, 759 in 957).

Messi has won more Ballon d’Or awards for the world’s best player, 7 times compared to Ronaldo’s 5.

France’s Kylian Mbappe is probably the world’s best player right now.

He’s also the world’s best paid player in 2022 according to Forbes. $128 million is made up of $110 million from endorsements and $18 million salary from PSG, where he is a team mate of Messi and Neymar ($87 million).

At only 23 years old, Mbappe clearly has the world at his feet, commercially and in his football. Messi and Ronaldo were well into their 30s before hitting their commercial peak.

Mbappe’s sponsors are led by Nike, Dior, Hublot and Oakley. He’s also on the cover of EA Sports FIFA video game, and an investor in fantasy NFT platform Sorare.

(Sources: Forbes, Sportskhabri, Deloitte)

In terms of social media influence, Ronaldo leads that way with 493 million followers on Instagram, with each Instagram post worth $2.8 million in media value.

Innovations

Al Rihla, the revolutionary match ball: Adidas has developed this new technology in close collaboration with FIFA and Kinexon. This will enable the referees to review live data automatically 500 times per second, allowing accurate detection of the kick point. Al Rihla will be the first World Cup ball to feature this innovation, providing precise ball data, which will be made available to refereeing teams in real-time.

Stadium cooling technology: Seven of the eight Qatar stadiums feature an advanced cooling technology that will keep the atmosphere inside the stadium temperate. There will be an energy centre near the stadium, from where chilled water is brought in a pipeline to the venue. Once it arrives, cold air is pushed onto the field and towards spectator seats. Sensors around the stadium keep the temperature constant, in each different area.

Semi-automated Offside Technology: Everyone has a love and hate attitude to offside rules, and VAR in general. FIFA has confirmed that semi-automated offside technology will be used, offering a support tool for the video match officials and the on-field officials to help them make faster, more accurate and more reproducible offside decisions. The new technology will have 12 tracking cameras around the stadium apart from a sensor inside the new Al Rihla ball, and linked directly to the Video Assistant Referee.

FIFA Player App: Players will be able to get insights into their on-field performance through the FIFA Player App immediately after each match. This innovation is the first visible outcome of the collaboration between FIFA and FIFPRO on developing standards and best practices for collecting, protecting and using personal player-performance data.

Intelligent Charging Stations: ElPalm will also be unveiled at the event. A wind turbine with solar panels will harness the power of the wind and sun. It will cover the fans and be furnished with USB charging stations, speakers for disseminating important information, and adverts. To keep all the fans connected while they are in their seats, ElPalm will also provide Wi-Fi.

Controversy 

Back in 2010, the disgraced then FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced Qatar’s victory. There was widespread scepticism about how exactly this tiny desert state, with no World Cup experience and scorching summer temperatures, had won.

So why did this World Cup matter so much to Qatar?

Allegations of corruption, vote-swapping, and links to trade deals at the highest levels of government have always been denied by organisers and remain unproven. But there is no denying the build-up to this tournament has been especially troubled.

There have been persistent fears over the human toll of building the infrastructure required in such a short period of time and in such a climate, along with discriminatory laws that prohibit homosexuality and curtail women’s freedoms through male guardianship rules.

Kantar research found that just under half (49%) of adults are ‘concerned about the human rights issues in the host nation’, with 18% unconcerned. Among the most avid World Cup fans concern rises slightly to 53%.

On human rights, The Netherlands tops the list among World Cup fans with 82% expressing concern, followed by Ireland (76%) and Mexico (75%). In the UK, 61% of fans are concerned.

Conversely, World Cup fans in China are the least concerned by human rights issues – the only market where more people disagree with the statement (37%) than agree (29%).

Fewer than half of World Cup fans (48%) agree that ‘holding the tournament in November – December compromises the tradition of the World Cup’; this rises to 66% in France and 64% in Germany (markets that are seeing the disruption of their domestic season).

BBC Analysis editor Ros Atkins adds his perspective on how Qatar won the bid to host the World Cup, as well as the human rights and environmental issues surrounding the tournament.

Enjoy the football!


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