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Silence on the Qatar World Cup is not an option

IPA research reveals that consumers expect brands to address issues around the FIFA World Cup.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

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The 2022 World Cup is already historic for all the wrong reasons. Qatar’s catastrophic human rights record is by no means brand new information, yet the past weeks have seen marketers scrambling to respond.

The result is a hotchpotch of approaches, from sidestepping the issue altogether, to Brewdog deciding to be an anti-sponsor. An approach which has been described as ‘lacking emotional intelligence.’

Seasoned marketing watchers might be left scratching their heads as to why official sponsors did not choose to take collective action to challenge the controversial decision in the first place.

From the lack of shopper marketing activation, to the lack of pure-excitement accompanying the tournament; it is clear that many in marketing did not take FIFA president Gianni Infantino's assertion to focus on the game, as opposed to politics, as a licence to open the marketing floodgates. 

How to manage activity during the Qatar World Cup is a significant problem and potential opportunity for brands to solve, both in terms of whether to comment on human rights issues and how to manage the disruption to the festive period.

Damian Lord, Head of Insight at the IPA

Consumers expect brands to take a stand

It’s a stance which is supported by new research from the IPA which reveals that half of consumers and two-thirds of young adults have more respect for brands who address issues around the FIFA World Cup being hosted in Qatar, than those who stay silent.

According to the survey, this desire for brands to take a stand is most keenly felt amongst young adults; with 63% of 18 to 34 year olds agreeing they would respect brands more for speaking out.

Yet there is no question that some consumers are craving the joy of the once-beautiful game, as one third of Brits (34%) believe that the World Cup will provide a much-needed distraction from the challenges we’ve faced this year. This is significantly higher among men (40%) than women (29%). However, 34% of adults do not believe the World Cup will provide a welcome distraction.

The timing of a festive world cup is also hitting a soft spot with some consumers. Thirty-eight percent of 18-34s believe that having the World Cup during the Christmas build-up makes it all the more exciting – compared with 20% of all adults and just 8% of over 55s.

Despite the controversy the tournament is poised to significantly impact viewing habits. Nearly half of young adults (47%) will prioritise Qatar World Cup viewing this year over major seasonal TV shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here.

Thirty-nine percent of 18-34s are more excited than ever for the World Cup as a result of the success of England Women’s football team this summer, a figure significantly higher among men (42%) than women (18%) of all ages.

Commenting on the findings Head of Insight at the IPA, Damian Lord, said: “How to manage activity during the Qatar World Cup is a significant problem and potential opportunity for brands to solve, both in terms of whether to comment on human rights issues and how to manage the disruption to the festive period.”

He continued: “These findings will provide significant insight into how to best engage with football fans and people going about their Christmas shopping over the coming weeks and what issues matter most to their audience.”


To read more about World Cup marketing click here.

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