Marketing

The World Cup is in full swing—and so are its protesters

Players, fans, marketers, and brands have taken stances while large sponsors seem undeterred.
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Mojo Supermarket

· 3 min read

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The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off last month, and while ad sales are breaking records, the quadrennial event has also seen its fair share of controversy this year, mostly surrounding its host country, Qatar.

Foul play: Budweiser is the official beer sponsor of the World Cup again this year and released its biggest global campaign to date ahead of it in September. After alcohol was banned inside and around the stadiums two days before the first game, the company is reportedly looking to get $47 million knocked off its 2026 World Cup deal with FIFA. While the exact reason for the reversal is unknown, some speculate that it has to do with it being an "offense to drink alcohol or be drunk in public" in Qatar, per the UK government.

  • Extra incentive: Budweiser tweeted that it would send the unsold Buds to the winning country.

Taking a stance: A number of other protests have also formed around this year’s World Cup in response to practices and restrictions in the host country.

  • Creative agency Mojo Supermarket unveiled a campaign declaring FIFA the “proud sponsors of The Slavery Cup,” in reference to the migrant workers who worked under inhumane conditions to build the World Cup stadiums. “The goal of The Slavery Cup is to bring faces and names of these statistics to the western world, and rally people to donate to help those still stuck in Qatar return to their families,” Mo Said, founder and creative director of Mojo Supermarket, said in a statement via Hannah Benabdallah.
  • French soccer magazine So Foot and ad agency BETC opened a restaurant pop-up in Paris for those boycotting the game. Rather than watch the game, they’ll have the chance to make foods inspired by France’s opponents.
  • Despite Qatar’s insistence that all are welcome during the World Cup, homosexuality is criminalized in the country. LGBTQ+ ad organization Outvertising released a statement to brands and agencies, calling on them to “use their platforms to meaningfully showcase what their true inclusive values mean to themselves, their employees and their consumers.”
  • Prior to kickoff, Scottish brewery BrewDog declared itself the “proud anti-sponsor” of the World Cup, citing the treatment of workers and the LGBTQ+ community in Qatar. Their OOH ads, created with Saatchi & Saatchi, said things like, “The beautiful game shame.”
  • Energy drink Lucozade Sport, which sponsors England’s national soccer team, also pulled all branding from this year’s World Cup.

And yet: Even with calls from the marketing industry, the New York Times noted that there has been “no detectable business boycott”; sponsorships from major brands like Coca-Cola and Adidas are still running.

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