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Comment - Chorus of Concern over Qatar Allegations Makes Sense

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The fact that World Cup sponsors - including The Coca-Cola Co and Anheuser-Busch InBev - have spoken out about the Qatar allegations is intriguing. 

The FIFA World Cup kicks-off in Brazil on Thursday

The FIFA World Cup kicks-off in Brazil on Thursday

Is it because the companies are so perturbed by the allegations of corruption that they feel they have no choice? Possibly. But I would venture a slightly more nuanced reason can be identified in two words: social media. 

In this hyper-communication age, companies, particularly those operating in the FMCG sector, have learnt that a brand can turn toxic overnight in the Twittersphere. In the case of the Qatar revelations, once one company had put its head above the parapet, it was inevitable the others, bar one, would follow. 

Neither Coca-Cola’s or A-B InBev’s statement were particularly forthright. Coca-Cola said it is “confident” FIFA is taking the allegations seriously. A-B InBev, which is a second tier sponsor of the World Cup through its Budweiser brand, issued a two-sentence statement yesterday saying it is “concerned” and “monitoring the situation”. 

But, the point is, they have registered their concern so nobody can accuse them of sitting idly by while the scandal swirls. 

Coca-Cola has already had to deal with one storm over its sponsorship of the Winter Olympics in Russia this year, in relation to the country's anti-gay laws. And it could be facing a similar backlash when the FIFA World Cup heads to Russia in 2018. 

Being arguably the world’s most recognised brand, it’s par for the course that Coca-Cola is a target for these sort of campaigns. The same could be said of A-B InBev as the world’s biggest brewer. 

But, in this age where anyone and everyone is a commentator, the hiding places are few and far between for brands. Some have learnt this, while others have still been slow to embrace Twitter, Facebook et al.  

In the case of the Qatar allegations, it seems a sensible move by the two drinks companies to join in the chorus of concern. 


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