Relaunching FIFA: can it be done?

FIFA’s website says that its goal is: “the constant improvement of football”. On the site, there’s a fair bit of self-congratulatory copy about making the game more global, and about helping young, disadvantaged people to play in an environment without prejudice. There is less copy about helping old, highly privileged people to line their pockets while bringing these other good things about. But maybe the copywriter didn’t get briefed on that part.

FIFA has a great deal to say about being an environmentally friendly brand: “We work hard to limit, our impact on the environment, inspiring greater awareness and best practice in sustainability standards at all of our events.” Just don’t mention Qatar. Or private jets. Or white elephant construction projects. As none of these count, it seems.

To be serious: Blatter will soon be gone. But Blatter is not the brand, and the brand is still highly toxic. I’ve written before about Ryanair, as an example of a brand made more toxic by its own leader. And there are parallels. Mr O’Leary did not fall on his sword, of course. He ran into a nose-diving share price, and this triggered a rapid character transplant, which has, in fairness, helped to detoxify the brand.

It won’t be so easy for FIFA. It has no sense of “customers” at all, as things stand. And it has no share price. So the usual drivers of Sudden Good Behaviour aren’t in the mix. Typically, Brand Renaissance has a number of stages: acceptance, resignations, apologies and then strategic repair is the usual sequence.  But, in this case, we have had resignations without acceptance and there’s very little chance of apology in the near future.

This suggests that repair is a fair way off.  The test will be what happens over Qatar (we probably have to give up on anyone daring to take on the Russian Question). Let’s put it this way: if this brand wants to change its image in any meaningful way, the World Cup will need a different venue for the 2022 Tournament.

That’s how to relaunch a New FIFA: by undoing the deeds of Old FIFA.