Brazil has been beset by several protests about issues ranging from the cost of staging next year’s tournament to public transport fare increases and Government corruption in recent days. It has been claimed some of the protests have been met with a violent police response.
The timing of the protests could not have been worse coming as they do in the middle of the country’s hosting of The Confederations Cup, an international knock-out competition between some of the world’s most prominent football nations including Brazil, Spain and Italy that is seen as a rehearsal for the World Cup, which will take place in Brazil in 2014. The country will also host the Olympic Games in 2016.
The world’s governing body for football, FIFA will be watching the situation with interest and trepidation. Although denied by the organisation, several reports from credible sources claimed the official website of Brazil 2014 had been hacked, with the site replaced with video of police action.
Sponsors contacted by Marketing Week insist none of their plans have been affected by the protests and it is not their place to comment on local unrest.
A spokesman for Adidas says: “Already in the past, big sport events have been used for demonstrations as they give international popularity in a few seconds, but as long as they are peaceful, demonstrations are an important part of democracy. However, we believe the current issues in Brazil fall outside of our area of influence.”
In a statement to Marketing Week, Coca-Cola, a sponsor of the Confederation Cup and World Cup, says the two tournaments contribute to the “long-term economic and social development and a permanent sports legacy for the country.”
It adds: “Peaceful public manifestations, such as the ones occurring in Brazil currently, are part of the regular democratic process that allows for free expression of all views.”
Some observers claim privately, sponsors will be concerned that next year’s tournament could see a repeat of the protests.
Mike Mainwaring, strategy director at sponsorship agency Generate, says: “It’s interesting that these protests are happening at this time [as the Confederations Cup is being hosted in Brazil].
“This tournament is seen as a practice-run for the World Cup, so from a sponsor’s perspective there’ll clearly be a few concerns.”
Gordon Lott, managing director at Havas Sport and Entertainment, adds it is the governing bodies, FIFA and the International Olympic Committee that have the most to lose if the problems persist.
“The IOC and FIFA will be more concerned as this not only damages their brands, which ultimately is what sponsors are paying an association for but also puts into question the merits of hosting a major games in developing countries. Going to developing markets has been one of the big selling points for FIFA and the IOC.
“Countries use the events to make significant infrastructure developments, stimulate the economy and market themselves to the world and of course sponsors are attracted to developing markets. If major events are seen as a focal point for political tension and unrest this model will be affected.”