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As World Cup host Qatar kicks off more controversy, Budweiser and other sponsors stay the course

Tuesday, November 22, 2022 by Robinhood Snacks |

Kicking themselves… Sponsors are losing the PR game at the FIFA World Cup. In the years leading up to this tournament, host country Qatar has been criticized over corruption, exploitative labor practices, and its anti-LGBTQ+ laws (homosexuality is illegal there). Controversy escalated this week after FIFA threatened teams who were planning on wearing rainbow armbands in support of the LGBTQ+ community, while Qatar banned beer sales at stadiums.

  • Sponsors = hit hard: AB InBev-owned Budweiser, the World Cup’s exclusive beer partner since 1986, paid $75M to sponsor this tourney but now won’t be able to sell alcohol (it’ll sell booze-free Bud Zero instead).
  • FIFA = unfazed. Soccer’s governing body, FIFA, made a record $7.5B from 2022 sponsors (FYI: FIFA officials have been charged with accepting Qatar-related bribes).

Hot-button hosts… are nothing new. The organizers of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and the 2018 World Cup in Russia were also criticized for ignoring local human-rights abuses. Now, 2022 World Cup sponsors like Coke, McDonald’s, Visa, Hyundai, and Adidas are getting heat for participating despite Qatar’s human-rights record. Meanwhile, “anti-sponsors” are on the rise:

  • UK brewery BrewDog launched flashy ad campaigns and special brews condemning Qatar, but has itself been criticized for signing a beer-distribution agreement with the country.
THE TAKEAWAY

Eyeballs may matter more than mouths… when it comes to corporate profits. Despite vocal opposition to Qatar’s conduct, none of the World Cup’s 70+ major sponsors have backed out. Few are willing to ditch one of the world’s top advertising opportunities: this year’s Cup is expected to attract a record-shattering 5B viewers (aka: more than half of all humans).