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Who is sponsoring the Qatar World Cup?

Sportswear brand Hummel has every reason to want to promote its relationship with the Denmark national football team. Hummel first made the Danish football team’s kits in 1979 and continued to do so until 2004 when the team achieved their greatest triumph: being crowned European champions in 1992. His 1986 World Cup squad is also known as one of the most attractive. never to win the sport’s highest honor.

After a 12-year hiatus, Hummel became the team’s kit sponsor again in 2016 and remains so today. Yet those watching Denmark take part in the FIFA World Cup to be held in Qatar from November 2022 will not see the iconic Hummel branding on the team’s shirts. In late September 2022, Hummel announced that it had “toned down” its logo and chevron branding for Denmark’s tournament kit as part of a protest against alleged human rights abuses in Qatar.

“We do not want to be visible during a tournament that has cost the lives of thousands of people,” reads a press release from the brand.

Qatar has drawn widespread criticism for the reported working conditions suffered by migrant workers who built from scratch seven of the eight stadiums the tournament will use. Some reports put the Qatar death toll rises to 6,500although this is disputed by the tournament’s organizing committee.

A statement from the Supreme Committee following Hummel’s announcement said FIFA had worked with the Qatari government “to ensure the tournament leaves a lasting legacy” and that this has led to “significant reforms to the system of labor enacting laws protecting the rights of workers and guaranteeing better living conditions for them”.

Despite this well-rehearsed defense, it’s clear that some companies believe the risks of being seen to endorse the tournament are too great for any brand to tolerate.

Hummel’s move is a small gesture. This will likely increase brand awareness ahead of the tournament, at very little cost to the kit maker, and attract praise from some quarters.

The main sponsors of the tournament, on the other hand, are much more scrutinized. Most have refused to publicly address the Controversy around the construction of a stadium in Qatar. If other kit makers or team sponsors make similar gestures, it will increase the pressure on them. So, what exactly are the brands that have decided to sponsor the 2022 World Cup?

Football is big business and the World Cup, a competition that takes place over four weeks every four years and pits the best national teams from all continents against each other, is the sport’s biggest international tournament.

FIFA says 3.75 billion people watched the final match of the 2018 tournament, hosted by Russia, and predicted that up to five billion could watch the Qatar 2022 final. The World Cup in Russia was the most expensive ever, with a total cost of $14 billion. It was a drop in the bucket compared to the Qatari government’s latest $200 billion cost estimate for the 2022 event, thanks to the need to build so much new infrastructure.

Host countries of major sporting events such as the World Cup hope they will boost foreign investment and economic activity, and there are few better platforms for brands to promote themselves globally.

FIFA raises billions of dollars through sponsorship deals for every World Cup and its many other international tournaments. Sponsors include some of the biggest brands on Earth.

American companies have long appreciated the global reach of the FIFA World Cup. Coca-Cola has been an official sponsor since the 1978 tournament, while McDonald’s first became a sponsor in 1994, the only iteration of the tournament to date to be held in the United States.

Touring the event around the world has apparently been a good way to find sponsors over time. A number of leading companies from the host country will be registered for each tournament, seeking to be associated with national success. The 2022 event will be no different, with six Qatari companies sponsoring it.

Sometimes these sponsors stick. South Korean car manufacturer hyundai began its relationship with FIFA before the 2002 tournament, co-hosted by Japan and South Korea. It has since remained a sponsor of the tournament and in 2010 signed a comprehensive deal until 2022 which made it a sponsor of a range of men’s and women’s football tournaments organized by FIFA.

The contentious nature of the last two tournaments, however, saw some long-standing sponsors drop out. Although not as severe as those imposed since its invasion of Ukraine, Russia was already under international sanctions when it hosted the World Cup in 2018 and that seemed to discourage some companies .

Continental had been a tournament sponsor in 2006, 2010 and 2014 but did not extend the relationship. British oil company Castrol sponsored two tournaments but did not return in 2018, and Johnson & Johnson from the United States was also a main sponsor in 2014 but not in 2018.

These “Western” sponsors have been partly replaced by local sponsors, with the Russian energy company Gazprom an additional sponsor for 2018. Gazprom was a strong supporter of football tournaments and teams, having also sponsored the UEFA Champions League, until the war in Ukraine made the company a pariah within the International community.

The rise of Chinese sponsorship at the World Cup

With Russian money no longer available and some Western sponsors staying away, the last World Cup relied heavily on Chinese sponsorship deals.

One year after the 2014 tournament, the German sports brand Adidas has signed an extension to its continued sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup, committing until 2030 in a deal worth $800 million. Adidas has supplied the match ball for every World Cup since 1970 and pays a premium to retain its monopoly position ahead of fierce US rival Nike.

This agreement, however, was overtaken a year later by the Chinese property developer Wanda Groupwho signed an $850 million contract through the 2030 tournament.

Chinese companies generate more sponsorship revenue than companies from any other country during the 2022 World Cup ($1.4 billion from Chinese companies versus $1.1 billion from US companies), according to GlobalData. Even considering the annual value of these deals, China is the largest sponsorship contributor.

This is perhaps surprising given that the Chinese team has only qualified for the World Cup once, in 2002, when the team didn’t win any games. The Chinese companies involved in the World Cup aren’t exactly household names either, so exposure to the global market would seem less valuable to them.

Yingli Solar was the first Chinese company to sponsor the World Cup, at the 2010 tournament held in South Africa. He returned in 2014 but ended his relationship with FIFA after that tournament and then fell into financial problems.

It was in 2018, when other companies turned away from the tournament, that Chinese sponsorship quickly increased. Technology and entertainment company LUCI, automaker Yadea, China Mengniu Dairy, consumer electronics companies Hinsense and Vivo, and clothing brand Diking all became sponsors that year. Three of those six returned for the Qatar tournament.

With so much sponsorship money coming from local or Chinese companies for the 2022 World Cup, it seems less exposed to public campaigns opposing the tournament. Still, it is likely that as the tournament draws closer, there will be pressure on ‘Western’ companies to comment on the human rights charges leveled against the Qatari government.

The 2026 World Cup should be less controversial for FIFA, given that it is jointly hosted by Canada, the United States and Mexico. Whether this translates into less reliance on Chinese sponsors remains to be seen.



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