By Barry Janoff
March 18, 2016: Claiming that "we will attract new partners, new sponsors . . . we have financial challenges but we will overcome them," FIFA has signed a sponsorship deal with the Dalian Wanda Group, just the sixth top-tier partner and the first China-based company to align with the worldwide governing body for the sport of soccer.
As part of their agreement, Wanda Group will have the "highest level of sponsorship rights" to all FIFA competitions and corporate activities for the next four FIFA World Cups, beginning with the 2018 World Cup in Russia and including the 2030 FIFA Men's World Cup, as well as the FIFA Women's World Cup through 2029.
Financial terms were not released, but global partners pay between $25-$50 million per year, according to industry analysts.
FIFA global partners also include adidas (based in Germany), Coca-Cola (U.S.), energy firm Gazprom (Russia), Hyundai-Kia Motors (South Korea) and Visa (U.S.).
FIFA has been seeking to re-build its top-tier alliance roster since Sony and Emirates chose not to renew their deals in 2014.
FIFA has been immersed in a financial and political scandal over the past 18 months, which led to the removal of long-time president Sepp Blatter and other top executives and criminal proceedings against the worldwide soccer organization.
Dalian Wanda Group, a conglomerate whose interests include commercial properties, culture and tourism, luxury hotels and department stores. is majority owned by its chairman, Wang Jianlin, whom financial analysts said is the richest man in China.
The agreement was unveiled in FIFA's Zurich headquarters during a media conference on Friday (March 18) headed by recently elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Wanda Group’s Wang Jianlin.
“We are pleased to welcome the Wanda Group to FIFA, a company that has a long affiliation with football, has been an active supporter of the game for many years and shares our enthusiasm to develop and strengthen football,” said Infantino. "Increasing awareness and participation in sports has become a key focus for the Wanda Group over recent years."
The alliance came a day after FIFA released its latest financial status, including a $122 million loss for 2015, which the organization said was its first deficit since 2002, largely tied to the on-going scandal involving former Blatter and other key executives.
According to FIFA’s Financial and Governance Report, "For the first time since 2002, FIFA posted a negative result of $122 million in 2015. In comparison to the first year of the previous cycle (2011-2014), revenue increased by $82 million to $1,152 million, mostly attributable to the steady sales of broadcasting rights for FIFA competitions.
"However, expenditure compared to 2011 also increased by $240 million to $1,274 million due to an increased budget for development expenses and higher competition costs, but also due to unforeseen costs such as legal fees and costs for extraordinary meetings."
The report also showed that FIFA had revised its forecast revenue for the 2015-18 cycle from $5 billion to $5.65 billion.
"I will restore the trust in FIFA and this means we will attract new partners, new sponsors and there will be some more positive news to announce in the coming weeks in this respect," Infantino said during the Wanda Group media conference. "2015 is in the past. The figures for 2016 will look very different.
"We have financial challenges but we will overcome them quite easily."
"I will restore the trust in FIFA and this means we will attract new partners, new sponsors and there will be more positive news to announce in the coming weeks."
A just-released study from research and consulting firm IEG, Chicago, showed that sponsorship spend on soccer in the U.S. is expected to set a record, reaching upward of $333 million in 2016. That is up nearly 10% from 2015
According to research firm Statista, which provides information to companies and universities around the world, global sponsorship spend on soccer will hit a record $60.2 billion, up from $57.5 billion in 2015, $55.3 billion in 2014, $48.6 billion in 2011 and $46.3 billion in 2010.
Wanda Group was founded in 1988 and Wang Jianlin has served as chairman since 1989. According to the company, Wanda Commercial Properties is the world's largest real estate enterprise and the biggest five-star hotel owner in the world. Wanda Cultural Industry Group is the largest cultural enterprise in China, and the world's largest cinema operator.
“As FIFA president, I am committed to providing stronger support for football development to our member associations, and I believe that the relationship with Wanda will support us to continue the on-going development and growth of the game in China and all over the world,” said Infantino.
PHOTO COURTESY FIFA
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