Marketing Brand Strategy News

Fifa caves to pressure and drops Saudi sponsors from Women's World Cup


By Danielle Long | Acting APAC Editor

March 17, 2023 | 4 min read

Fifa has caved to backlash and dropped its plans to appoint Visit Saudi as a major sponsor of the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Women's World Cup

Fifa caved to pressure and drop Saudi sponsors for Women's World Cup

News of the deal drew heavy backlash from the host nations, players and other sponsors when it was announced last month.

Saudi Arabia tourism body’s sponsorship of 2023 Women’s World Cup was heavily condemned by human rights groups.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino confirmed sponsorship discussions had taken place, but said, "At the end this discussion didn’t lead into a contract." Infantino called the widespread international backlash "A storm in a teacup."

However, Rebecca Sowden, the founder of women’s sports marketing consultancy Team Heroine and a former New Zealand professional football player, has questioned how the “misaligned” sponsorship talks were possible in the first place.

“The more concerning issue is reports that Fifa were baffled by the backlash. If there was an iota of understanding of the unique traits nuances, brand values and stakeholders of women's football this would have not only been an expected response but foreseen and completely averted,” says Sowden.

Sowden, who is also behind the current 'Correct The Internet' campaign, suggests the six weeks of “deafening silence” from Fifa is an example of how the organisation needs a better understanding of the unique collaborative spirit behind women's sports.

“If Fifa had an understanding of the opportunity and a defined Women’s sponsorship strategy, they would know that this didn't align with the tournament and would have never gone there but squashed reports within seconds rather than waiting for an official decision at their congress.”

“After six weeks of deafening silence, Fifa has finally responded to the women's football community and dropped a planned sponsorship misalignment between Visit Saudi and the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023.

"Parties across the board like New Zealand Football Football Australia, Sponsors, Players, Host Nations, and women's sports supporters, came together with an early voice on this issue.

"The power of the women's sports community is unique and it’s a united voice with collective ambitions and we must continue to leverage to drive the game forward," says Sowden.

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