FIFA Bribery Case: Media Reputation Analysis

FIFA, the International Federation of Association Football is currently facing a major reputation crisis.

FIFA top representatives have been accused of bribery and favours in order to influence the decision on the FIFA Football World Cup bids for 2018 and 2022, finally awarded to Russia and Qatar.

The case is receiving massive media attention, as the case is formally open in the british Parliament. The impact of the events are magnified as the accusations are colluding with the Presidential elections process. Today, June 1st is the election day. There is only one candidate, Joseph Blatter, asking for reelection. A second candidate, Bin Hamman from Qatar renounce last week. There are current allegations against Bin Hamman for bribery in the bid process. Joseph Blatter was included in the FIFA internal list of investigated persons for a couple of days.

Joseph Blatter aknowledged that the current crisis is ternishing FIFA image and reputation, but that he considers that the best way to react is to solve the problems inside the “family of football”. Consequently, Blatter discards a dimission or renouncing to reelection.

Officials from Adidas and Coca-Cola, showed in a formal statement their concerns about the current situation, as they are main sponsors of FIFA World Cup.

In this post we check to which extent the current crisis is really damaging FIFA image and reputation.

Reputation profile of news about the bribery case

The first piece of the analysis is to measure the profile of news directly related to the bribrey case. As in precedent posts, we base our analysis in the “diamond reputation vectors” analysis, using news content analysis from newspapers in English.

We show the results concerning the negative reputation vectors. In order to see the impact of the case, we compare reputation profile of news by 14 may with news up to 31 May.

Results are clear: all news about the FIFA bribery case are strongly associated to “Scandal” vector and also, but to a minor extent, to “Tragedy”. The “Scandal” vector components more sensitive to the FIFA case are corruption, scandal, embarrassing, mistake and harm.

Our results show also that media coverage about the case has evolved in tome to a much more severe judgement. Mid-May coverage referred mainly to allegation by Triesman, the English FA representative that he was approached by FIFA executive members during the bidding process asking for financial compensations. Current media coverage of the case expands to allegations against top officials, and revelations about e-mail communications by FIFA vice-president implicitly aknowledging irregularities in Qatar bidding process.

We include the analysis of the reputation vector “Respected, Coherent”. As explained in other posts, this vector is sensitive to news with values and ethical issues, both in a positive and in a negative way.

We find that the FIFA bribery case is also seen as a ethics-related issue. We find increasing and high degree of association with components trust, coherent, ethical, fairness and respected.

All these results show us clearly that media is really perceiveing the bribrey case as a serious issue with substantial reputational implications for FIFA perception.

The impact of the bribery case in FIFA reputation

We have analyzed the media profile of news directly related to the bribery case. It is perceived as a highly negative event.

The next questions that we need to address is to check to which extent the news about the bribery case is actually damaging FIFA reputation. This is the crucial issue in order to fix the actual size and risk of any reputation crisis. We have conducted similar analysis in this post in order to test how singular events affect global firm reputation, in cases like AFLAC jokes about Japaneses tsunami, the impact of Royal Wedding parody video on T-Mobile or the impact of UEFA sanctions to Mourinho on Real Madrid image.

The first step required to measure the impact of the bribrey case on FIFA media reputation is to show FIFA media reputation in “normal times”. We count with this information, as we monitored the impact of the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa in terms of media coverage and media reputation. Results about media reputation for country brand Spain or players’ reputation and impact on sponsorship like David Villa case are presented in our Report about Media Impact and Reputation of FIFA World Cup 2010 (in Spanish).

Brand Spain (p 3 to 39); Brand David Villa (p. 68 to 105); Brand FIFA and Sponsors (p. 106 to 121)

We show in the next figures the degree of association of brand “FIFA” to negative image vectors, during 2010. We show two measures: first one refers to media treatment during the first half of year 2010; the secong one shows values for July-December 2010. First half year measures reflect more the intrinsic media reputation of FIFA, while secong half of the year measures reflect the impact of the football competition.

The degree of association of FIFA to vectors “Scandal” and “Tragedy” are relatively mild, and are absically unaffected by the football competition. There is no specific vector component highly associated strongly to FIFA.

FIFA business model is largely based in the selling of TV rights but also because it attracts multimillion sponsoring deals. Sponsoring firms look for partners ensuring massive media coverage linked to events distilling positive media reputation and no negative media reputation. We have shown that in normal times FIFA is not linked to negative reputation values. We show below that our results confirm that FIFA is an excellent sponsoring partner, as it is highly associated to positive image vectors. We select a couple of them as example: “Spectacular” and “Impressive”.

Our results show that in normal times (pre World Cup media coverage) FIFA is quite positively related to vectors “Spectacular” and “Impressive”. And this positive relationship dramatically increases as a result of the sport competition (post WC measures), where the massive media coverage is concentrated. So, FIFA is a perfect companion for sponsoring brands presenting an emotional-oriented brand profile.

With all these results, we can already show the impact of the current reputation crisis in the overall reputation quality of the brand “FIFA.

We show first how the association of FIFA to “Scandal” and “Tragedy” has been affected at the initial stage of the bribery scandal media explosion with Triesman allegations, a couple of weeks ago.

Our findings show a substantial increase of negative media perception. Concerning “Scandal”, the vector components more sensitive have been scandal, mistake, harm and corruption. Those from vector “Tragedy” are harm, tragedy and failure.

We show now the current situation, with news about FIFA up to May 31, one day before the expected reelection of President and candidate Joseph Blatter for a fourth term.

We compare present media reputation values to those two weeks ago, and against 2010 values.

We find an additional massive increse of association to negative reputation values, compared to both 2010 and mid May situation. Association to “Scandal” increases in all vector components, and it is more pronounced with components scandalous, embarrassing, worrying, mistake and harm.

Association to “Tragedy” also increases, but to a minor path. It increases more on horrible, worst and harm.

We add the results concerning the vector “Coherent, Respected”. As explained befeore, if it increases, it means that the news are also considering ethical issues.

Results show a notable increase of association to components trust, ethical, fairness, respected.

Our conclusion is direct: the impact of the bribery case has a devastaging reputational impact on the quality of brand FIFA. Please remember that in last figures we are not showing just news related to the bribery case, but we show instead ALL news about FIFA.

Present crisis harms FIFA by increasing its association to “Scandal” and “Tragedy”, but also because it  reduces dramatically the association with positive reputation vectors. We show below the example of the vector “Impressive”. Results are self speaking.

Is Sepp Blatter The Solution, or The Problem?

Yesterday Sepp Blatter was reelected as President of FIFA, serving in his fourth term. He got some 90% of the votes of FIFA representatives.

Blatter assumes the mission to solve the problems FIFA is facing: ” ‘Together we can tackle the problems that football faces today and show that our game remains very solid and strong’. The FIFA President spoke about the need for transparency and “zero tolerance” in the fight against the dangers that threaten football” (FIFA Press Release, June 1 2011).

Right now, Sepp Blatter image and credibility in the media is directly linked by the media by the ongoing bribery case.

We have shown in this post that the news about the bribery case have completely contaminated all FIFA news, and both present the same profile in terms of negative media reputation.

With this results, it is not surprising to find using our technique that actual news about Sepp Blatter show a tarnished image, similar to FIFA profile, and FIFA bribery news profile.

In the following figures we shoe how the current crisis has completely modified the media perception about Sepp Blatter. We show the reputation profile of news about Sepp Blatter by September 2010, in the aftermath of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and we compare it with his profile by the end of may, just before his reelection.

As in the precedent cases, we find a dramatical increase of the association to “Scandal” and “Tragedy” right now on news about Blatter. His media reputation in “normal times” was not linked to these reputation vectors a year ago.

Joseph Blatter profile is now also strongly linked to “Respected, Coherent” vector, as the current crisis is linked to ethics.

We show finally the example of how the crisis does affect positive reputation vectors. We have choosen “Excellence”. Sepp Blatter loses the association to this reputation vector that he has one year ago.

How serious and damaging is the present association of Sepp Blatter to “Scandal”?

Media Profile: Sepp Blatter Vs Bernie Madoff

Thanks to our technique and to our database we can provide elements of answer that we consider relevant and useful. We can compare his media profile to the media profile of other past cases of scandals. The readers and analysis can judge if the personages can be compared or not, but what we provide is the results concerning how media portray the different cases and people.

The case we propose is Bernie Madoff media reputation to be compared to Sepp Blatter.


Madoff’s case is probably an epitome of a investiment fraud and financial scandal. We check how media is covering right now news about Sepp Blatter in comparison with news about Bernie Madoff.

We show Madoff’s media reputation profile on news by mid 2010 and at the beginning of 2011.

Critical reputation vector in this crisis is “Scandal”. Our results show that both Blatter and Madoff are strongly associated to scandal. Madoff is more associated to components scandalous and worrying. But news about Blatter are even more related to “Scandal” than Madoff in components like corruption, harm, mistake and embarrassing. The results show probably impact the institutional implications of the bribery case.

Concerning “Tragedy”, both people share a very similar profile. Blatter negative reputation is stronger concerning harm and tragedy.

The vector “Coherent, Respected” linked to ethical issues show also that Madoff and Blatter share a similar media profile. Madoff profile is somehow instable between 2010 and 2011. Blatter profile is stronger associated to trust, ethical and fairness.

All our empirical evidence tend to the same conclusions: the bribery case linked to the 2018 and 2022 bidding process is an extraordinarily serious reputation crisis, at least as how international media is covering it. This crisis is not isolated to people directly affected by the corruption allegations, but it has completely flooded the reputation of FIFA as institution, and its President Joseph Blatter.

This is really problematic, as there are risks that the brands FIFA and Sepp Blatte remain contaminated by the scandal and their media reputation is permanently associated to “Scandal” (as brand Madoff is). This scenario would certainly mean a withdrawal of present FIFA main sponsors, as all of them are leading brands where brand equity is essentila to their business (Adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa, Fly Emirates). Of course, sponsorship income would not disappear, as FIFA football competitions produce extraordinary media impact attractive to firms. But probably new sponsoring firms would be low quality brands looking for media exposure more than a co-branding alliance, like is currently happening with cycling competitions.

Crisis management recommentations are clear: reputation problems will remain as far as only compromise disciplinary measures are taken. Exemplary sanctions and the assumption of political responsibilities are needed. These are the initial steps to allow media to speak about other things than corruption when covering FIFA news.

These measures will not be enough probably in order to move present FIFA media reputation no normal pre-crisis waters. Only a structural reform-reborn of FIFA will ensure that media considers FIFA under new perspectives.

Right now, FIFA and Sepp Blatter share exactly the same negative media reputation. If radical reforms are undertaken by FIFA, we will see in the near future if President Blatter is part of the problem or the solution: in the next months we will monitor and compare media reputation of both FIFA and its President. Techniques developped by MRI Universidad de Navarra will tell us in which direction this reputation crisis is evolving.

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