We are close to a tipping point between sports and sponsors

By Patrick Nally, one of the founding fathers of sports marketing

If you look at the news from Brazil straight after Germany won the World Cup final, everything looks rosy in the FIFA Garden.

Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, is chirpy saying “The 2014 FIFA World Cup was exceptional. I’m a happy man. Multi Obrigado Brazil.”

He gives Brazil a 9.25 out of 10 for quality, South Africa got 9 out of 10. We also see the Russian Sports Minister announcing plans for 2018: “We will have a lot of good surprises and treasures for you if you come to Russia.” The impression you get is all is well with the FIFA brand.

However while I was in Rio I warned the FIFA Masters Alumni at their global gathering that we might be reaching a tipping point in sport’s relationship with sponsors.

“I believe that brands – in their own interests – will ultimately start to use their financial power to come closer to the centre of sport and ensure it is governed and administered in a way which better reflects their image and ambitions,” I said.

As the creator of the commercial blueprint which continues to deliver $billions in sponsorship for major sports events, I challenged young sports sector professionals to join in a debate about the future relationship between sports and brands.

I told them why I believe we are at a tipping point in the critical relationship between sports and sponsors and that sport governing bodies have to pay more attention to managing their own brands and preserving their reputations and integrity.

FIFA, prior to the event, and even following the close of the event, is embroiled in more and more controversy that is having a significant negative impact on its brand.

At West Nally, we devised and implemented the InterSoccer 4 programme which transformed the finances of FIFA by introducing revenue from Coca-Cola and other major corporations.

However changes in the ways that brands relate to and communicate with consumers and the way consumers make purchasing decisions means that brand reputation has become more important than ever.  Consequently brands need to be associated with positive properties and initiatives to enjoy a halo effect.

Clearly, spending billions to support projects which are so popular, such as the World Cup is one thing, but conversely can sponsors continue to support organisations whose integrity has come into question? It is not good for brand image and I believe that there is a risk that if FIFA’s image does not change, sponsors may melt away from the sport and use other channels to reach their audiences.

I have urged FIFA Masters Alumni members to become actively involved in all aspects of the debate on the future of sport, they are part of the FIFA brand and their future is inextricably linked to that brand.