Byju’s tried-and-tested sports sponsorship goals get bigger with FIFA

The world’s biggest ed-tech company is teaming up with its biggest single-sport event. On March 24, Bengaluru-based Byju’s was declared the official sponsor of the FIFA World Cup 2022 to be held in Qatar.

“Through this partnership, BYJU’S will leverage its rights to the FIFA World Cup 2022 marks, emblem, and assets, and run unique promotions to connect with passionate football fans around the world,” the company said in a press release. “It will also create engaging and creative content with educational messages.”

Byju’s, which offers prep courses for K-12, entrance exams, and professional upskilling, is the youngest among the sponsors, which include McDonald’s, Vivo, Hisense, and Budweiser.

Why would Byju’s sponsor a FIFA event?

This isn’t Byju’s first brush with sports sponsorship.

The company backed India’s men’s and women’s cricket world cup tournaments and its logo was on the national cricket team’s jerseys. Clearly, these have been winning deals for Byju’s since it renewed the contracts, at times at a premium.

In India, cricket saves Byju’s “from the hard work, analytics, research” required to invest in upcoming sports, according to Charu Sharma, Indian sports commentator and director of Pro Kabaddi League. Outside, soccer’s popularity could work the same magic.

FIFA, besides helping Byju’s gain popularity in mature markets like the UK, the US, and Australia, will give it a cost-effective foothold in developing markets like Mexico and Brazil. Visual TV advertising and social media campaigns associated with the World Cup will reduce the need for localised campaigns.

It’s an expensive deal at $30-40 million, but Byju’s can afford it. It has splurged on a slew of acquisitions in India and abroad. The company would “easily do Rs10,000 crore ($1.3 billion) revenue this year,” founder Byju Raveendran claimed in August 2021. (The financial year 2021 isn’t over so official figures aren’t out yet.) The company recently raised $800 million at a $22 billion valuation in a rumoured pre-IPO round.

Byju’s, which has 150 million learners on its roster, will reach billions during the multiple 90-minute matches between Nov. 21 and Dec. 18. During the 2018 world cup, more than half the world tuned in.

Beyond customers, Byju’s — already backed by the likes of the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, BlackRock, and Tiger Global — could draw more global investors’ eyeballs, too.

What of FIFA’s corruption-ridden past?

There is a contentious issue though: FIFA’s corruption.

However, not going for a FIFA deal would be “mad,” according to former Visa global sponsorship head Andrew Woodward.

“The FIFA World Cup is the most popular sporting event in the world. People love it. They don’t care about the corruption,” he wrote in a 2015 blog post when FIFA’s corruption scandal first broke. “The general rule of thumb is that a well-executed sponsorship returns a 20% better result than conventional marketing. Why would you want to give this up?”

Last December, Visa became the first-ever women’s football partner. Coca-Cola, once “extremely concerned” about corruption, remains a FIFA partner.

If FIFA’s alleged corruption didn’t repel these behemoths, why should Byju’s retreat? In any case, the Indian company is no stranger to scandals.

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