If you walk around your nearest mall, you might already see drinks, brands and fast food outlets emblazoned with words, photos and promotions that reveal they are the official sponsors or partners of the upcoming FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar.
Such companies would sign deals worth millions of dollars with FIFA to obtain the legal right to be associated with the world’s largest soccer tournament. Thus, the likes of Coca Cola and McDonalds will work hard to ensure a return on the investments they have made.
There may be some people and companies, inside and outside Qatar, presenting themselves as somehow connected to the World Cup.
In fact, some fans and consumers may inadvertently believe they are buying products from a tournament sponsor, when in reality they are not. This is called ambush marketing where the brand tries to make itself look like sponsorship when in reality it has nothing to do with the event.
Sponsorship is usually seen as a business in which brands and companies can raise awareness and enhance remembering of who they are and what they do.
Sponsorship also helps boost the image: your association with the world’s most prestigious football event can help brands see them in the same way.
In this context, it is important to view care as having two parts. The first is the fees paid by the sponsor to the likes of FIFA. This is like buying a car, although cars need fuel to make them run properly; So the second part of the sponsorship – known as activation, which supports the sponsorship processes and explains why many of you are now seeing the previously mentioned words, images and promotions.
The sponsor spends once on gaining the right to be associated with an event like the World Cup and then spends more on making sure the sponsorship is as effective and successful as possible.
Where does politics come into the equation?
In recent years, sports sponsorship has become a sensitive issue, which means that it is no longer just a business issue, but a political issue as well.
For example, during the years of the recent blockade of Qatar, some sponsors were wondering how best to enact World Cup sponsorship deals.
The specific concern was that Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup presented an opportunity, although Saudi Arabia is the largest market – raising questions about how to reconcile the two.There have also been some issues with sponsorship amid concerns about Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers; With sponsors of teams rather than the event itself, such as France’s Carrefour and Dutch ING, it is believed they have concerns about activating their deals with the national teams they participate in.
The reason for this is that they fear consumer reaction in European markets if they are seen as complicit in any mistreatment of migrant workers.
So, what’s the point of that for K-pop’s BTS?
Sponsorship policies are not just about concerns or criticisms.
Rather than seeing controversy, some of football’s most prominent sponsors see an opportunity to boost their presence and profile across a variety of regions, globally.
As such, sponsorship has become part of countries’ quest to promote their brands and project soft power around the world.
In one case, FIFA partner Hyundai/Kia – a South Korean car manufacturer – began revitalizing their association with the World Cup, something they were doing jointly with K-Pop band BTS.
K-Pop is a contemporary music phenomenon and BTS is one of their biggest selling groups and both, like Hyundai/Kia, are from South Korea.This association is not accidental, it is part of the South Korean government’s plan to promote the country and spread its influence around the world.
A brand involves a nation that creates a clear identity and embraces a set of values that may be attractive to people in other countries. This process of attraction is referred to by some as “soft power projection” which, despite its name, is intended to help countries get what they want.
Thus, the relationship between Hyundai / Kia and BTS is beneficial not only to them, but also to South Korea itself.
The government in Seoul wants to position the country as modern, vibrant, trendy and trustworthy, which has a foundation, not only politically and culturally but also economically. After all, if people find a country, its businesses and its cultural symbols attractive, they are more likely to buy from it.
South Korea is not alone in using the sponsorship system in this way, Qatar is making a way, too.
The country’s national airline is also a global partner of FIFA, and its name has already appeared around the world on everything from the website of the football governing body to the fuselages of Qatar Airways flying around the world.
The airline would have paid hundreds of millions of dollars for its association with FIFA, although there is a financial limit to the deal. Qatar Airways is selling seats on planes, whether it’s for those attending the World Cup or otherwise. It also contributes to helping make Hamad International Airport a global transit hub.
There is a clear soft power dimension to what Qatar Airways does, and it is underpinned by the idea that “Qatar deserves the best” which the airline endorses in consistently winning awards for being the best airline in the world.
The ever-present ambition to deliver high levels of service is just one of the messages the government in Doha seeks to highlight through Qatar Airways and its World Cup sponsorship.
With the World Cup approaching, we will be seeing many relevant promotions pop up on our mobile devices and within shopping malls.
Companies and brands will urge us to spend our money and try to shape our perceptions of the countries they originate from.
But it is not just soft drinks, cars and airline tickets that are marketed to us, but also combinations of values, identity, culture and lifestyle.
Simon Chadwick He is Director of the Center for the Eurasian Sports Industry and Professor at Emlyon Business School.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Doha News, its editorial staff or its staff.