If FIFA thought a fantastic Women’s World Cup would keep people from remembering the corruption allegations and related arrests that came about just before the Cup got underway, the organization got a pretty good indication Sunday that it was mistaken.
When FIFA “dignitaries” took to the field after the game to hand out awards, the crowd booed them roundly. Most of those in attendance likely didn’t even know that the leader of the pack was Issa Hayatou, head of the Confederation of African Football who “was accused of selling his vote for the 2022 men’s World Cup hosting rights by a former Qatar bid employee,” according to Reuters. Noticeably absent for the first time from a WWC trophy ceremony was FIFA head honcho Sepp Blatter, who says he is staying in Switzerland to help clear up the mess. Boos would likely have been even louder if he had been in attendance.
People may still have a dismal view of FIFA but that hasn’t stopped them from watching the actual games. More than 1.35 million people attended the actual games at this Cup, according to GMA Network. The overnight ratings put Sunday night’s final between the US and Japan at 15.2, which translates to more than 20 million viewers tuning in: between 21 million and 23.5 million people, according to Sports TV Ratings.
In fact, the Women’s World Cup final on Fox drew a record US audience for a soccer game, beating both baseball’s World Series and the NBA finals. The 2011 Final had a rating of 8.6 while the 1999 Final, which featured the famed celebration of Brandi Chastain, had a 13.3 rating. This year’s Final was on par with this year’s NBA Finals record-breaking sixth game, which had 23.3 million viewers. FIFA also released stats showing that its digital audience more than doubled during this Women’s World Cup, including 560 million content impressions. FIFA reported that stadium attendance also more than doubled, to 80 million, this tournament.
All those eyeballs, of course, will keep brands pouring their money into FIFA’s coffers until some kind of more solid legal situation arises. Blatter, for one, is saying that the problem isn’t with FIFA but with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany’s previous president, Christian Wulff. “Messrs. Sarkozy and Wulff tried to influence their delegates,” Blatter said, according to Deutsche Welle. “That’s why we now have a World Cup in Qatar. Those who decided should also take the responsibility.”
One of those that is to blame for the current scandal is putting forth a public effort to save face. CONCACAF, the soccer federation that governs North and Central America and the Caribbean, has publicly proposed a number of changes. The organization is at the center of the current corruption scandal and, Fox Sports reports, it has published anti-corruption policies that include “the reform proposals include: Imposing term limits on CONCACAF presidents and executive committee members; appointing independent outsiders to the policy-making executive panel executive committee; publishing salaries and expenses of top officials.” As for Blatter, he isn’t ready to take any blame for what’s happening and won’t specifically say when he’s going to follow through with his promise to step down.
The Daily Beast suggests that Blatter may want to hire some women to help fix the brand’s image—an idea that has been kicking around since before the 2015 Women’s World Cup kicked off. “Countless studies say women are less corruptible than men,” The Daily Beast comments, making females a better choice for the scandal-plagued organization.
Whoever is to blame, it doesn’t seem that the unbelievable 5-2 Final victory by the U.S. over Japan will do much to keep the world from averting its eyes from FIFA’s troubles. Blatter can say what he wants, but he still has a lot of brand repair work to do to get himself and his organization out of hot water.
Meanwhile, as happened during the 2010 Summer Olympics and other big sports events, it was Nike—not even an official FIFA sponsor—that won the day through some sly ambush marketing, according to marketing firm Amobee Brand Intelligence.
In the six-hour period beginning at the start of the final game, Amobee tracked 2.87 million tweets having to do with the US Women’s National Team or the Women’s World Cup. The lion’s share of those tweets (1.08 million) used the hashtag #USA, so the game was clearly great for American patriotism.
It was also great for Nike. According to Amobee, Nike was the most mentioned brand in tweets leading up to and during the final match. Between June 6 and July 5, Amobee found that Nike was 121% more associated with the World Cup than adidas.
— [a•mo•bee] (@amobee) July 6, 2015
That’s a real blow for Adidas, which is the official apparel sponsor of the FIFA World Cup. Nike, however, is a sponsor of the US Women’s national team, ultimately backing the winner and proving the more powerful deal. Nike also ran an ad campaign featuring many of the US players, which prompted tweets that included the hashtag #NoMaybes — vs. adidas’s soccer-related hashtag, #BeTheDifference.
As ESPN’s Darren Rovell notes, “While Nike has recently used Lloyd frequently in its Training Club marketing, the winner of the Golden Ball — given to the best player in the World Cup — doesn’t have many other marketing deals. Lloyd signed a deal last September with Usana Health Sciences, which has used her in some company public relations. Last week, her agent, Josh Weil, closed a deal for her to represent Visa through the 2016 Olympics.”
“A lot of what we were going to do was going to be predicated on how the World Cup went,” Weil told ESPN. “So we’re in pretty good shape now.” Weil said he is in advanced talks with an auto company as well as a watch company that has never before done anything with soccer. “I would like to see some deals come through with top USOC or IOC sponsors ahead of the Olympics: Bridgestone, AT&T, McDonald’s — those types of companies,” he said. No doubt, all that and more awaits her.
What a win for Team USA! Great game @CarliLloyd! Your country is so proud of all of you. Come visit the White House with the World Cup soon.
— President Obama (@POTUS) July 6, 2015