The right amount of courage is required

Manuel Neuer with the “One Love” captain’s armband

The dispute over a small piece of fabric shows how political major sporting events are now. This becomes a challenge for sponsors.

(Photo: dpa)

The retailer Rewe is ending its partnership with the German Football Association (DFB) with immediate effect. He had given in to pressure from the world association Fifa, which means that national players will not wear the “One Love” armband at the World Cup in Qatar, which should set an example for diversity. Rewe boss Lionel Souque does not want to accept that.

Rewe had already declared in October that the cooperation with the DFB would expire. In this respect, the decision should not have been difficult for the management. Nevertheless, the retailer sends a signal – to the sports associations, to the sponsors. The decision-makers in the companies urgently need to deal with the question of how to deal with this level of meaning in sports sponsorship.

The events in Qatar – the country has been criticized for the exploitation of migrant workers and questionable statements by officials about homosexuality – are the preliminary climax of a longer development. Major sporting events are becoming political events. This was observed at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, as well as at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Now it is easy to remotely demand that all sponsorship measures be stopped in order to divert misguided association officials from their erroneous, money-oriented course. But it’s not that easy. Companies often tie themselves to specific sporting events for years. Fifa’s current approach shows that it takes the right amount of courage to break with learned sponsorship behavior – as in the case of Rewe.

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Courage, which would also be good for companies like Lufthansa, also a partner of the DFB. The company makes a statement, for example, with the airplane that bears the lettering “Diversity Wins”. Especially since the jet has already landed in Qatar. But such messages fade if the sporting partner does not prove to be stable.

More: Controversial World Cup in Qatar: How Adidas, Coca-Cola or McDonald’s justify their sponsorship

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