There’s already never been a World Cup quite like Qatar 2022 is the earliest that a ball has been kicked.

Human rights groups are in turmoil over everything, from the treatment LGBTQ people in countries where homosexuality is illegal to the treatment of LGBTQ people. deaths of construction workers Building the stadiums. Organizer FIFA Is it possible to recover from corruption scandals They cast doubts on how Qatar he was the first to be awarded the competition. Erstwhile FIFA chief Sepp Blatter said he regretted It was chosen as the host by the Gulf country.

The quadrennial tourney was not the focus of all the handwringing. World Cup could still attract 5 billion viewers — almost two-thirds of the planet’s population. And when there’s an audience, brands will pay to reach them.

Bloomberg News contacted 76 companies sponsoring either the tournament or the teams taking part. They ranged from Adidas AG and Coca-Cola Co. to Volkswagen AG and Microsoft Inc.’s XBox, and were based in places where human rights criticism was widespread — the US, Canada and in Europe. None of the seven FIFA sponsors said they would make any changes to their global advertising plans to reflect concerns for human rights.

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Of the 69 sponsors of national teams, 20 responded to express their commitment to human rights, though declined to disclose if or how their marketing might change. Thirteen companies did say they would make adjustments, though few have significant business ties to Qatar. They include Danish brewer Carlsberg A/S, Belgian chocolatier Cote d’Or and the Belgian business of accountancy firm PwC.

Qatar 2022 is undoubtedly the most important year. most scrutinized World Cup in historyWhile pundits and politicians raise concerns about the host nation, executives find themselves in a difficult situation. Yet financially it’s a no-brainer: the potential to get hundreds of millions of eyeballs on a logo or marketing slogan during a troubled time for the global economy.

The tournament, which is starting in November for the first time to avoid the summer heat, is expected to deliver record revenue for FIFA, topping the roughly $5.4 billion the 2018 World Cup Russia produced Bloomberg reported last week.

“The public has become much more vocal about human rights than it was five or 10 years ago,” Sarah Simon, European media analyst at Berenberg Bank London, said the following: “But it’s a one-in-four-year opportunity, so advertisers who advertise around the World Cup want to make the most of it.”

Sport remains the last refuge of live television viewing, despite audiences moving away from traditional broadcasters to watch online streaming services. The Olympics, Super Bowl and World Cup These are the rare occasions when brands can count on paying big bucks to reach a live audience. This gives them an outsized importance in TV advertising revenue.

In the meantime, the economic slump has prompted brands to curb their marketing. They’ll spend an estimated $90 billion less on advertising this year and next than previously expected, according to data company WARC. 

World Cup Advertising is a bright spot that’s timely

This makes it possible to World CupThis game opens with a match between Qatar and Ecuador in Doha on Sunday, a timely bright spot — regardless of the controversy. The boost from the tournament is likely to offset the advertising market’s broader weakness.

Analysts predict that ITV Plc will record similar fourth-quarter sales to last year thanks to the show. World Cup games. That’s as ad income at rivals is expected to dip.

“For all of the controversy around the World Cup, it couldn’t be coming at a better time for broadcasters,” Matthew Bloxham is a Bloomberg Intelligence media analyst. “Their advertising revenues are facing tough headwinds, and this will ease some of the pain.”

To say it’s a normal World Cup For advertisers Sponsors and sponsors would be wrong however. Many brands backed the Dutch, Belgian, or Danish teams claimed they were. not Going to make use ticket allocations for matches 

Carlsberg stated that its marketing budget has been halved compared to last season when Denmark was playing in the European Football Championship. It’s focused on supporting the team before it goes to QatarA spokeswoman confirmed the information via email. “Once the tournament starts, we have scaled back significantly compared to what we would normally do,” She said.

Cote d’Or said executives wouldn’t attend the World Cup Customers can also receive tickets from the brand, even though they are part of Mondelez International Inc.’s food distributor Mondelez International Inc. whose products can be found in Qatari grocery stores shelves. PwC’s Belgian arm is doing likewise, while the company has a big presence in Qatar.

Companies will be closely monitoring the public mood as the tournament progresses towards the Dec. 18 final. If the volume of criticism mounts, then some may think twice about continuing with campaigns that have been months in the planning, according to Martin Sorrell, the veteran British advertising executive who is now chairman of S4 Capital Plc, the digital ad agency he founded after leaving the giant WPP Plc.

“If there was significant momentum, if campaigns developed, criticism developed, then people would review their positions,” Sorrell. “There may be clients who are concerned about it — the human rights issue and the other policies that Qatar pursues around LGBTQ. So, there might be some people who take a position on that. But that decision will largely have been made some time ago.”

The experience of British brewer BrewDog Plc shows some of the pitfalls in trying to go the other way. The company decided that it would tap into the negative sentiment towards them. QatarIt calls it running “anti-World F*Cup” campaign. “First Russia, then Qatar. Can’t wait for North Korea,” One billboard is in operation. It also pledged to donate profit from one of its beers sold during the event to human rights charities.

But no sooner had the advertising campaign been unveiled, social media posts pointed out that BrewDog still planned to show matches in its bars and had signed an agreement to supply beer to Qatar’s government-owned distributor. Labor union Unite Hospitality criticised the treatment of its workers by the brewery, labeling it the Campaign “disingenuous.” BrewDog last year apologized to former employees The firm was accused of bullying.

You have those who publicly support LGBTQ rights, but still sponsor the tournament. FIFA itself, such as Adidas, brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s Corp. They point to the improvements in and defend their involvement. Qatar.

The four companies told Bloomberg they believed the World Cup They had made positive changes and praised their support for efforts. FIFAThe International Labour Organization Other groups Adidas “has worked with partners to also improve the human rights situation in Qatar in recent years,” In an email, a spokesperson stated that. “Adidas was not involved in the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar.”

Adidas Chief Financial Officer Harm Ohlmeyer told investors last week that he expects a “tailwind” of as much as €400 million ($417 million) in sales related to the World Cup.

‘Fabrications and double standards’

Qatar Some areas have made more progress than others in response to criticisms. And after more than a decade under fire, the government’s patience for criticism may be wearing thin.

The country has improved living standards and safety for low-income workers and enacted labor reforms that took effect in 2021. It’s the only Gulf state with a universal minimum wage and workers are now able to leave jobs more easily. These measures were acknowledged by activists, who also pointed out flaws in the system like the failure to eradicate predatory recruiting fees for migrant worker.

Qatari officials have been slower to address concerns. the treatment of LGBTQ people. Journalists and human rights groups claim that journalists have heard from some people who were harassed and detained by security forces since September. An internal organizer document indicates Qatar You may also choose not To enforce rules against the promotion of LGBTQ rights throughout the tournament

Initial Qatar “considered some of the criticism as positive and useful in helping us to develop aspects of ours that need to be developed,” Qatar’s ruling emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani told local lawmakers last month. But he rebutted at what he termed an “unprecedented campaign” Full of “fabrications and double standards” With dubious motives.

How enthusiastic brands support the tournament is determined by which teams win. If their home nation advances, there’s scope for opportunistic ad campaigns.

“Brands will look for an angle that will be able to cut through at minimum cost,”  Nick FoxChairman of Atomic, an advertising agency based in London. “Rather than paying millions of dollars for traditional channels, they’ll be looking to snipe around the edges.”

—With assistance from David Hellier and Jessica Loudis