The furore surrounding FIFA president Sep Blatter and investigations into corruption at the organising body for the World Cup is one ball that will not be kicked into the long grass. As the scandal snowballs various stakeholders in the tournament now risk collateral damage by association.
In particular, the top tier sponsors of the tournament are vulnerable. Last week AB InBev, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Visa called openly for Blatter to step down immediately rather than hold on to his position. Now, finally, FIFA has met this co-ordinated call half-way and half-heartedly, with a recommendation from its ethics committee (hmmm) that Blatter be suspended for 90 days.
Sponsorship, especially in sport, presents challenges. The right vehicle can give unprecedented access to a huge audience and tap into the enthusiasm of fans, but there can be taint by association if anything untoward occurs. Then the sponsor has to unpack some knotty moral quandaries. Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade and Tag Heuer swiftly ended their association with golfer Tiger Woods following revelations of infidelity. But Nike did not and maybe its unspoken stance that it sponsors sporting prowess not behaviour in private life was the right one.