Dusseldorf The Cologne food retailer Rewe ends its cooperation with the German Football Association (DFB). The company announced this on Tuesday. The background is that the captain of the German national team, Manuel Neuer, will not wear the “One Love” armband at the World Cup game against Japan on Wednesday, as initially announced.
Actually, the DFB and six other European associations wanted to set an example with the armband. The World Cup host country Qatar has been criticized for its oppression of homosexuals and women. After the world association Fifa announced sanctions such as yellow cards for the players, the associations withdrew their plan on Monday, which caused widespread astonishment.
On Tuesday afternoon, the DFB announced that it intends to appeal against the threat of punishment before the CAS Sports Court. But the first sponsor had already drawn consequences. However, Rewe boss Lionel Souque attacked the world football association in particular: “For me as the CEO of a diverse company and as a football fan, Fifa’s scandalous attitude is absolutely unacceptable.” The supermarket chain is therefore waiving its advertising rights from the existing contract with the DFB. This applies in particular in the context of the current World Cup.
Other supporters of the DFB such as Volkswagen, Adidas or Deutsche Telekom initially want to stick to their sponsorships, the companies said. Telekom, which broadcasts all World Cup games via its Magenta TV service, announced talks with the DFB “about the entire topic”. “We don’t believe in hasty decisions and first have to understand the background to the DFB’s decision,” said a spokesman. Telekom had only extended its partnership with the DFB to 2024 early in the spring.
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Equipment supplier Adidas is also sticking to the decades-long cooperation. “We will not end the partnership,” said a spokesman. Adidas relies on dialogue. The sporting goods company supports players and teams who are committed to change. “Sport provides a stage for important issues. It is imperative to continue the discussion.”
Likewise, mobility partner VW does not intend to end its sponsorship. “There have been many good developments at the DFB in recent months,” said a spokesman. They want to continue to work together with the DFB on positive changes in football as a whole. VW has been a sponsor of the DFB since 2019 and had replaced competitor Mercedes-Benz, which had been the association’s general sponsor since 1990.
Rewe’s contract with the DFB would have expired at the end of the year anyway
At Rewe, the decision could also be based on the desire to use the momentum and make a public name for itself: the retail chain had already announced in October that it would not continue the long-term partnership agreement with the DFB. This would have expired at the end of 2022 anyway.
After the current decision by Fifa, the group is putting the contract on hold with immediate effect. The company has already informed the DFB of this. The DFB did not initially respond to the Handelsblatt request for Rewe’s decision.
The current World Cup is difficult terrain for football sponsors. Critics accuse them of wanting to enrich themselves from the tournament, despite the problematic human rights situation in the host country. Many European supporters of Fifa and the sponsors of the World Cup in Qatar only cautiously refer to the tournament itself in their advertising clips, but instead focus more on football itself or the fans.
DFB is losing more and more sponsors
It is not the first time that sponsors have turned against the DFB. Power struggles for the top post, dubious consultancy contracts and suspicions of tax evasion have battered the image of the sports association with the most members in the world. Most recently, long-standing sponsors such as the Bitburger brewery, the fast food chain McDonald’s or the software company SAP had stopped sponsoring the DFB.
Rewe’s decision should also have been easier because many consumers are not in football fever given the energy crisis and the unusual organization of the World Cup in winter. That’s why the trade doesn’t expect big business from the tournament. Many retailers have no special offers or fanware on the shelves.
Retail group wants to give scrapbooks away for free
At the end of October, Rewe also reported to the Handelsblatt that the World Cup “is attracting less interest than previous major tournaments”. For customers, the focus is more on the Christmas season. At least it was hoped in Cologne that there would be “positive spillover effects” on the sale of drinks or snacks.
With the end of the support of the DFB, Rewe also wants to give its scrapbook to customers free of charge, the retail giant announced. Rewe will donate the previous income from this after the end of the promotion. To whom is still unclear. Brand experts had advised companies to take this step before the World Cup in order to show their stance.
>> Read more: Controversial World Cup in Qatar: Like Adidas, Coca-Cola or McDonald’s justify their sponsorship
Brand expert Christopher Spall then also praised Rewe’s measure: The procedure was credible because it involved a waiver for the company. Rewe is the “first well-known brand to draw tough consequences from the Qatar disaster during the tournament,” says the managing director of brand identity consultancy Spall.macht.Marke. “This will increase the attractiveness of the brand and help to distinguish it from the competition.”
More: Which companies benefit from the tournament in Qatar – and which do not