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World Cup Marketers in Brazil Face Protest Peril

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Coca-Cola (KO) has spent millions showcasing the bright, colorful drawings of Brazilian artist Speto on cans of its drinks around the world, in hopes that trumpeting its sponsorship of the upcoming FIFA World Cup championship in Brazil will burnish its brand. But Brazilian street artist Paulo Ito recently reimagined the country’s World Cup hosting with a darker image: a skinny boy clutching a knife and fork like Oliver Twist, crying over a dinner plate containing nothing but a soccer ball.

That such harsh sentiment is bubbling up in arguably the world’s most soccer-obsessed nation could spell trouble for World Cup sponsors such as Coke, Hyundai Motor, Sony (SNE), and Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD). The companies have invested hundreds of millions to link their brands to the world’s most-watched sporting event. They do so with slogans such as Budweiser’s “Celebrate As One” and Coke’s “One World, One Game.”

Published on Businessweek
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