"Will you watch the World Cup this year?" is probably the question that has been heard most often in recent weeks, at least in terms of sentiment. In Germany, the answer to that question may have changed for many since the national team's recent elimination. Nevertheless, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is one of the most controversial events in a long time. The sponsors of the soccer competition are feeling the effects of this as well. Weeks in advance, they faced public criticism and moral concerns. Where previously many companies were happy to advertise in the context of a soccer championship, some are now cleverly using the moment to publicly distance themselves from FIFA and garner positive attention. Rewe, for example, announced that it would boycott the World Cup and relinquish its advertising rights from its contract with the German Football Association (DFB).
But what about the remaining sponsors - what can they learn from the current situation to become better at dealing with public criticism in the future? SPONSORs took a look at this topic and, together with experts from the communications industry, presented five possible solutions. Hendrik Schulze van Loon, Managing Partner at ORCA van Loon and expert in crisis communication, was one of the participants.
For him, one thing is clear: crisis prevention is essential. Those who cannot or do not want to do without FIFA sponsorship should ensure that they have a good basis for their crisis communication. In the SPONSORs article, Hendrik Schulze van Loon explains: "If you take a classic textbook approach, as a FIFA sponsor you put a lot of work into good preparation. For example, you think about what kind of questions might come up and how you as a company might respond to them." So thorough preparation is the best way to identify a crisis early and get ahead of it with strategic communications. Ideally, this means that the actual crisis communication does not even come into play. "In the event that crisis communication is necessary, you draft a guideline beforehand," Schulze van Loon continues. "It says what you can do in the event of a crisis. For example, you can set up a telephone hotline or a dark page, which you can then put online if necessary. Or that you do media training with the company's board of directors, who - together with the communications manager - act as spokespeople for the company in times of crisis."
Hendrik Schulze van Loon then had one more piece of advice: "In general, as a sponsor you have to ask yourself: Do we want to stand for this? Or do we have to have an ethical compass according to which we cannot support exploitation through sponsorship?" explains Schulze van Loon. He himself would advise his customers not to get involved as a sponsor of FIFA. Because, Schulze van Loon continues, "That would render all further questions about how to behave as a sponsor of the 2022 World Cup obsolete."