Time was the greatest enemy in Fifa’s attempt to sell the full offering of sponsorship rights for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Philippe Le Floc’h, Fifa’s chief commercial officer has told Sports Sponsorship Insider.
Fifa failed to sell three out of eight second-tier World Cup Sponsor positions and 12 out of 20 Regional Partners positions in the wake of the Fifa corruption scandal that rocked the federation in 2015.
It could have been worse. In the three months before the tournament, six Regional Partner deals were sold, thought to be worth between $8m and $12m each, although none were sold outside of Europe and Asia.
“It was really a case of a lack of time,” says Le Floc’h. “There was a long period where everything was on hold and consequently we only had 18 months to do the job that is normally done over 3.5 to four years. We had to prioritise and have achieved a lot within the given timeframe and have exceeded our revenue targets for 2015 to 2018.”
Fifa, he said, will conduct a full review of the sales process from this cycle before making decisions on the best way to approach the next cycle, but the commercial structure of three tiers is already agreed for 2022, so the regional model will remain. “There is a lot of value in these packages, what they offer has been showcased through this Fifa World Cup, and this, combined with a longer sales period will help to deliver even stronger results next cycle,” he said.
Fifa’s sponsorship target was $1.45bn for the current cycle and will be $1.88bn for the next cycle from 2019 to 2022. “It is an ambitious but achievable target and I am confident that with a full sales period we will reach our goal,” he says.
Working with commercial partners
Le Floc’h said that the new administration under Gianni Infantino, elected president in 2016, has helped stabilise the Fifa brand. Infantino launched a new blueprint for the federation ‘Fifa 2.0’ in October 2016. “Time was spent educating commercial partners on the changes that have been made to the way in which the administration operates and the procedures that have been implemented to support good governance in the future which helped to restore confidence,” says Le Floc’h.
In 2017, Fifa conducted a full brand audit and has begun implementing changes such as the launch of new Fifa brand claim ‘Living Football’ that was announced at the Fifa Congress 2018 in Moscow. Living Football’ expresses Fifa’s commitment to participation, sustainability and the future.
Fifa is also working with commercial partners to create more tailored assets around the World Cup. Fifa ran special marketing programmes with commercial affiliates on site in Russia, as well as a brand-specific, digital activations. Le Floc’h says: “The traditional sponsorship rights are there – LED boards, tickets, hospitality etc – and while there is huge monetary value in these elements, often the perception of impact and value comes from elsewhere. For example, it is becoming more important for many brands to have the possibility to integrate their products or services into the Fifa World Cup experience, to create unique fan engagement opportunities or to activate in new ways through social media. “
Increasingly, he adds, Fifa’s brand relationships involve a portion of value-in-kind to deliver the integration. “Research also plays a central role in ensuring that we continue to learn and develop the commercial offer. Fifa invests heavily in research, with much of it relevant to commercial partnerships. Later this year we will review the findings from the summer together with the brands and identify where to develop the packages for the future. “
Le Floc’h says the expansion to a 48-team tournament in 2026 should be ‘win-win for everyone as the sporting and commercial aspects of the game grow together all around the world’. The addition of 16 countries should create more favourable conditions for broadcast and marketing rights, he says, but Fifa’s key vision for the 10-year period, from 2017 to 2026, is to increase participation, and, in particular, to double participation in the women’s game to 60 million.