Even though China’s national team will not be participating at this year’s 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Chinese companies have jumped on the chance to promote their brands to a global audience.
While on the surface it would appear to be purely a marketing strategy designed to reach billions of people around the world, there have been suggestions that there is more to these investments than meets the eye.
the fact that a number of long-term and high-profile sponsors and partners, such as Johnson & Johnson, Castrol and Continental, chose not to prolong their association with FIFA following the corruption charges levied against football’s world governing body in May 2015. This has given Chinese firms the opportunity to move in and promote themselves to an estimated global audience of 3.2bn, according to an in-depth report of the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
Simon Chadwick, a professor of sports enterprise at Salford Business School, told the Financial Times that Chinese firms are using the opportunity as they do not feel any association with the scandal-hit FIFA organisation of the recent past. “To a certain extent, China can step back from Fifa and say what happened over the last 20 or 30 years is nothing to do with us, we are associated with the new Fifa,” said Chadiwck, an expert on the game in China. “In those terms, the reputational damage is far less for China,” he concluded. Essentially, Chinese firms feel that they are not tainted by FIFA’s actions of the past ten years.
Chinese corporate giants sign up for 2018
The Wanda Group, the world’s largest private property developer and owner of the largest cinema group on the planet, is one of FIFA’s seven official partners, alongside Coca Cola, Adidas, Gazprom, Qatar Airways, Visa and Hyundai/Kia. Wanda signed up on March 18, 2016 to become FIFA’s first top-tier Chinese partner in a deal that covers this World Cup, as well as the tournaments in 2022, which will be held in Qatar, 2026 and 2030. There has been widespread speculation that Chinese President Xi Jinping is plotting a bid to host the latter edition of the competition.
As well as rights to all FIFA competitions up until and including the 2030 World Cup, Wanda will also engage in a number of initiatives designed to grow the game at a grassroots level in Asia. As a major sponsor, Wanda’s logo will be seen throughout the tournament, in the form of advertising boards, stadium adverts and on television programmes. It will also be able to use the official World Cup marks and have access to elite-level hospitality packages, as well as preferential access to direct broadcast advertising and ambush marketing protection.