Big Business Gets a Big Boost from Controversial World Cup

December 2, 2022

The 2022 FIFA World Cup moves into the knockout stages this weekend, a nerve-wracking time when teams can be eliminated with a single loss. While the tournament’s soccer stars will experience a dramatic increase of tension on the field, the host country Qatar has already faced plenty of global pressure since FIFA awarded them the event in 2010. The Middle East nation has long been accused of using corruption to land the World Cup, leading to a 2015 indictment from the U.S. Justice Department claiming the nation spent more $150 million bribing FIFA officials. This investigation culminated in FBI raids and the near collapse of FIFAas its longtime president resigned while other officials went to prison.

With all of the people who awarded the cup to Qatar now out of FIFA, the worldwide governing body for soccer claims that the organization has gotten rid of all its bad actors. The controversies for the 2022 World Cup don’t end there, though, as the host nation has also faced accusations of gross mistreatment of its massive workforce of migrant laborers. For more than a decade, Qatar has enticed millions of people from nations like India and Bangladesh with promises of steady work on a slew of construction projects, ranging from stadiums to new roads and office buildings. But many workers have reported that employers would confiscate their passports upon arrival and force migrants to work without pay while effectively trapping them in the country. Then there is the matter of the desert heat: countless reports over the years estimate that the scorching conditions potentially led to the deaths of thousands of workers.

This assortment of scandals led to public protests from players and coaches as well as condemnations from other global soccer organizations. Despite these objections, though, the 2022 World Cup kicked off in Qatar weeks ago and will continue until the final game on December 18th. That match is expected to attract billions of viewers, an unmissable marketing opportunity that will feature ads from big brands like Coca-Cola, Visa, Hyundai, and others. Several human rights organizations called on companies to withhold their support from this edition of the cup while some business experts felt that brands could risk their reputations by associating with it. While that hasn’t turned out to be the case, this tournament has certainly tested the patience of some brands, especially Budweiser: the beer maker learned just days before the first game that beer would not be allowed to be sold near stadiums. Although the company has continued its sponsorship of the cup, it reportedly expects a discount on the next one in 2026.


  1. Why do you think major companies like Coca-Cola and Budweiser chose to sponsor the 2022 World Cup despite all of the controversies surrounding it?
  2. Do you think companies that have sponsored the 2022 World Cup could potentially harm their reputations? Why or why not?

Source: Vivienne Walt, “Why Big Business Can’t Get Enough of the World Cup, Scandal and All,” The New York Times, November 25, 2022.