The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is underway and while it started with a good dollop of drama, things seem to be progressing smoothly. That is until you consider that two of the biggest sponsors of the event are actually banned in the region. How did that happen? Let’s take a look.
Following allegations of corruption and ethics (Former president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, has publicly stated that he believes that “Qatar is a mistake,” and that “the choice was bad”), two of FIFA’s top five partners pulled out of the event. Fly Emirates and Sony no longer sit among Visa, Coca-Cola, and Hyundai, however, this did open up room for new partnerships. Adidas, QatarEnergy, and Qatar Airways have now joined the inner circle.
Red Card: Crypto Ban Despite Crypto.com Being Official Sponsor
As Crypto.com looks to expand its high-profile, sports-orientated sponsorship marketing campaign, the crypto exchange penned a deal with the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 event for an undisclosed amount. Part of the sponsorship deal is branding rights and providing opportunities to attend matches and exclusive merchandise giveaways to users.
This is an interesting choice considering that crypto trading has been primarily illegal in Qatar since its Central Bank cited a ban in 2018. This decision was reaffirmed in December 2020 when the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority (QFCRA) confirmed the ban on all virtual asset services.
Despite not being able to use cryptocurrency in the country of the event, the exchange expressed that it was looking at the bigger picture of getting its name out there on a global level. And Crypto.com is just one of the crypto sponsorships at the World Cup. Users are bypassing this ban by using debit cards linked to their crypto accounts which allow them to spend crypto as if it was fiat.
Yellow Card: Qatar Bans In-Stadium Alcohol Sales, Budweiser Left High And Dry
Anheuser-Busch InBev, the owner of Budweiser, has been a World Cup sponsor since 1985 and currently has a commercial sponsorship deal with FIFA worth $75 million. Imagine their surprise when two days before the event certain terms of their agreement were derailed as an alcohol ban was implemented on all eight official stadiums. Budweiser’s response: “well this is awkward”. The tweet has since been deleted.
Qatar, a wealthy Muslim country, is not entirely dry, although the sales and consumption of alcohol are strictly regulated. The country also has a law against being drunk in public, one that holds serious consequences. Drinking in public comes with a six-month jail sentence and/or an over $800 fine. Alcohol in the country is only available through several licensed hotel restaurants and bars and a specialized permit system for expatriates.
Bystanders are waiting to see whether Budweiser will take any legal action against the organization. All is not lost however as Budweiser is still able to sell beers in the Fan Festival areas and other licensed premises and still holds its branding rights. The publicity the brand has attracted from this unexpected turn has also been noticed.
Reports have commented on whether the FIFA organization has lost control of the event, with reference to them pressuring Brazil to reinstate alcohol sales at stadiums for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The country obliged and the president signed the bill to put this in motion.
At the time, FIFA’s general secretary, Jerome Valcke said "Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we're going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that's something we won't negotiate." It appears that things have changed.
The show must go on. While sponsorship deals have fallen through and many team sponsors have distanced themselves from the event, the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is well underway. It is worth noting that FIFA earns more from TV broadcasting rights than it does from any sponsorship or partner. With nearly 3 million tickets (over 90%) sold prior to the event, it appears to have had little impact on the event as a whole.
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