At first glance, one would think that any company in the marketing space would relish the opportunity to have the juggernaut that is the FIFA World Cup among its clients. Yet, for the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, some of the top global public relations firms were reluctant to pitch a communications plan for what some have described as ‘mission impossible’, given the controversy surrounding FIFA as of late.
In November, FIFA submitted requests for proposals to five of the leading global PR firms: Bell Pottinger, Edelman, Weber Shadwik, Hill & Knowlton Strategies, and Burson Marstellar.
It was announced last week that Weber Shadwik had been appointed by FIFA to manage communications for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and also the 2022 tournament in Qatar, but it’s unclear how many of the firms actually wanted any part of it.
Two firms, Bell Potinger and Edelman, publicly bowed out of the running, not divulging their reason for doing so, although it’s safe to say that they were protecting themselves from to the potential risk to their reputations.
FIFA has been under fire for the handling of the next two World Cup bids, as well as the behavior of the host countries to be.
In addition to the civil unrest between Russia and Ukraine, Russia has been widely criticized for its anti-gay laws making the tournament a difficult sell for fans and corporate sponsors.
Meanwhile, Qatar has faced its own problems, including worldwide criticism of its poor working conditions for migrant workers, and the use of the ‘kafala’ system, which is what many are calling: “slave labor”. The country has also been accused of using its capital to bribe FIFA to choose Qatar as a host nation.
Weber Shadwik has a true PR nightmare on his hands, as he’s tasked with rehabilitating the public perception of FIFA, one of the most scrutinized governing bodies on the planet.
However, the firm does have time on its side, four years until the next World Cup actually kicks off. If it can build a successful communications plan, while keeping its own reputation relatively unscathed, it would be a huge coup for the firm.
Information sourced from PR Week: