Even as football fever begins to set in ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, a large proportion of the public (both at home as well as across the globe) remain uneasy about the alleged human rights abuses & violations that have taken place in the host country in order to get this tournament underway.
Whilst Qatar did somewhat update and modernise it’s labour system back in 2017, Amnesty International research has found that “thousands of workers across all projects are still facing issues such as delayed or unpaid wages, denial of rest days, unsafe working conditions, barriers to changing jobs, and limited access to justice, while the deaths of thousands of workers remain uninvestigated.” This is clearly unacceptable, and given these issues have been ongoing for a number of years, there has been a lot of coverage of these controversies – across well-reputed publications such as The Guardian, The Independent & The Times.
It is clear that all this negative press around the tournament has had an impact of people’s sentiments. A survey conducted in October 2022 by adtech company LoopMe found that only around 30% of UK respondents planned to watch the World Cup. This is a stark comparison to the last men’s European Championship tournament – where more than half of the UK population tuned in to watch the final. Additionally, a UK poll (Amnesty International & YouGov) found almost three-quarters of respondents would support a FIFA remediation programme, while 70% said they thought the FA should speak out about the human rights issues in Qatar. Especially pertinent for brands & media owners is that sponsors appear to also be affected by these negative connotations, particularly amongst younger age groups. For example, amongst Brits aged between 18-24, over 20% of those surveyed agreed with the statement: “I will avoid any brands who sponsor the World Cup due to the humanitarian issues in Qatar” (TGI).
And these views aren’t just limited to England or the UK; a global survey (Amnesty & YouGov) found that 73% of people “polled across 15 countries support (a) proposal that FIFA use World Cup revenues to compensate workers who suffered in the preparation of the tournament.” A very similar amount (67%) also want their national football governing bodies / associations to publicly address their concern over the humanitarian issues surrounding the tournament.
The key takeaway for brands is that they must remember to be sensitive to the prevailing sentiment surrounding the World Cup, and ensure all communications show some sensitivity to this issue. This is particularly relevant & important to remember given often World Cup-themed campaigns are overwhelmingly positive and often fairly easy to roll out. Furthermore, given the depth of feeling felt by younger audiences (such as Gen Zers) any brands that predominantly target these age groups must be particularly diligent in the near future. It is also vitally important that brands are authentic and show a continuous commitment to upholding these values in the long run.
Sources: Amnesty International, Amnesty International & YouGov, LoopMe, Forbes, TGI