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Qatar World Cup represents ‘significant risk’ to brands says Manchester consultancy

Photo by Hatem Boukhit on Unsplash

Manchester digital research and measurement consultancy Sensu Insight has claimed that brands take a “significant risk” by associating themselves with the ongoing World Cup in Qatar.

Sensu MD Steve Leigh said: “According to our recent research, 52 per cent of consumers feel it’s wrong for brands to support the World Cup in Qatar, suggesting that companies associating themselves with the event or using it to promote their products or services are taking a significant risk with their reputations.

“With so much unpredictability around the event and how it will unfold over the coming weeks, businesses need to remain vigilant and continue to handle communications with caution. There are still so many unknowns around how protests in Qatar may develop and the treatment of fans and public opinion can quickly turn.

“Brands are walking a tightrope and need to carefully consider how they handle their communications around the tournament. They must establish whether it’s truly necessary or appropriate to act or make a statement, or whether their business interests may draw accusations of hypocrisy and public comment is better avoided entirely.

“For the sake of brand reputation, any response must come from a place of authenticity and be very carefully considered. If a public stance is deemed the right course of action, it must be communicated clearly, reinforced by genuine reasoning, and backed up and appropriate action.”

Leigh adds that even brands seeking to criticise Qatar need to be careful or risk a backlash for hypocrisy and virtue signalling.

“If brands are going to publicly disassociate themselves from the World Cup, it needs to be an authentic and considered move. Making large statements of contempt for the event is unlikely to improve public reputation on its own, and if unmatched with real action, it may cause the public to have further questions about the motivation behind a brand’s actions, as demonstrated by the reaction to the recent Brewdog campaign – the brewery and pub chain’s decision to show the games live at its bars whilst publicly condemning the tournament has led to widespread criticism of the motivation behind the brand.”

The tournament is mired in controversy over host Qatar’s human rights record, which features the death of up to 6,500 indentured labourers while building stadiums according to campaigners, the potential death penalty for homosexuality, routine confiscation of foreign workers’ passports and the requirement for women to seek permission from a male family member to perform basic functions.

Last night, during the Australia vs France game’s half time commentary, a report from the BBC claimed that the event is the most carbon-heavy event in human history, despite Qatar’s claims of carbon neutrality, while both of the event’s UK host broadcasters, the BBC and ITV, have made a point of highlighting the host country’s failings.

The BBC chose to give no coverage to a bizarre opening ceremony featuring Morgan Freeman and several camels, while ITV previewed its coverage of Qatar’s neighbour and fellow human rights abuser Saudi Arabia’s opening game yesterday with a documentary about the autocracy’s penchant for sportswashing, such as through its purchase of Newcastle United FC.


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