So much has already been written about the recent and ongoing investigation into FIFA surrounding corruption and financial impropriety, and we have no plans or expertise to diagnose it further.

But from a sponsorship perspective (much has been written about sponsor reactions, too) the question should be examined over what the impact may be for other sports marketers.

Our data provides great insight into many relevant areas, but specifically for this piece we’ll look at popularity and Return-On-Objectives (ROO) (of the sponsor).

Ultimately, what brands continuously wrestle with when sponsoring high-profile leagues or athletes is what to do if something such as a scandal occurs. It’s one thing to issue a statement, and another thing to terminate a sponsorship.

Let’s start with the data as it really should be the driving force behind the sponsor’s evaluation:

  • Globally, there are a higher percentage of soccer sponsorship activities than with any other sport. It really is the most popular sport on the planet. In 2014, 13.6% of sports sponsorships entered into client systems around the world (operating in 45+ countries) were soccer related.
  • Soccer ranks highest in ROO among all sport sponsorships (minimum of 50 activities occurring). Criteria-based evaluation allows sponsors to quantify the qualitative benefits of why they sponsor a given sport, and last year, the average ROO for soccer exceeded 60%.

This leads us to try to understand the potential ‘trickle-down’ effect of a governing body or individual athlete scandals and sponsors succumbing to consumer or stakeholder pressure. The above figures account for all levels of the sport, from professional leagues to amateur tournaments, but we can isolate those to benchmark any changes in sponsor activity which may result from the charges and investigation at FIFA.
It could be argued that a relatable (though certainly not to the same degree) situation in sports could be the NFL’s handling of concussion data. Over the last two years, sponsorship activity in all levels of football has actually increased 25%, meaning more sponsorship opportunities in football have been both proposed and activated by sponsors.

Simultaneously, the average ROO of football (all levels) has dropped 1%. This means that in the same two-year period, sponsor objectives have not been met as well as they previously were.

There are more possible examples that we could examine than we have room for today, but the topic of impact around other levels of sports where scandal has existed is an intriguing one.

Could it be that with regards to these other levels “any PR is good PR?” The data seems to show that for prior situations and we’ll continue to monitor the “trickle-down” effect of FIFA’s actions to sponsorship within other areas of soccer around the world.

By Seth Leeds, MediaPost.com, June 11, 2015

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