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FIFA turns to China again for sponsorship, with Hisense deal

Associated Press logo Associated Press 6/04/2017
FIFA president Gianni Infantino speaks during The 41st Ordinary UEFA Congress on Wednesday April 5, 2017 in Helsinki, Finland on Wednesday April 5, 2017. (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva via AP) © The Associated Press FIFA president Gianni Infantino speaks during The 41st Ordinary UEFA Congress on Wednesday April 5, 2017 in Helsinki, Finland on Wednesday April 5, 2017. (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva via AP)

ZURICH — Racing to find sponsors for the 2018 World Cup following corruption scandals, FIFA has again found help in China — this time with consumer electronics firm Hisense.

The 16-month deal announced Thursday by Hisense's British division is unusually short for FIFA, which typically looks for contracts of at least two World Cups.

Hisense signed up in the second-tier global category as the official television sponsor only for the Confederations Cup later this year and the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

FIFA now has 10 World Cup sponsors, with new deals all coming from China and Russia. There are still 24 vacancies in a marketing plan that includes a new third-tier category giving sponsors only regional rights.

Hisense, which also sponsored the 2016 European Championship in France, did not disclose financial details.

"Over the years, Hisense has gained a lot of experience and seen strong brand growth through sports sponsorships," Hisense Group president Liu Hongxin was quoted as saying in a FIFA release.

"We are honored to take on our biggest challenge yet ... and we believe that the competition will vastly improve global awareness and economic value for Hisense as a truly international brand."

Five major sponsors failed to renew with FIFA after the 2014 World Cup, including top-tier electronics backer Sony.

FIFA marketing officials have acknowledged that potential deals have been affected by American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption in international soccer which were revealed in May 2015.

It's been more than a year since FIFA landed a global top-tier sponsor for the World Cup, which is budgeted to earn more than $5 billion.

In March 2016, Chinese property and cinema giant Wanda Group signed a four-tournament deal through 2030.

The previous new sponsor signed in September 2013 when Russian energy giant Gazprom signed up for the 2014 and 2018 World Cups.

FIFA currently has six top-tier "partners," with scope to add two more ahead of the kickoff in Russia in 14 months.

Hisense joins Budweiser and McDonalds in the second-tier "sponsor" category, which has between three and five vacancies.

In the new 20-slot regional tier, only Alfa Bank of Russia has signed to a program created by marketing executives hired under former President Sepp Blatter and who left FIFA since Gianni Infantino was elected last year.

FIFA is looking for three more regional deals for Europe, plus four each in Africa and the Middle East, Asia, North America and South America.

The shortfall of sponsors contributed to a $122 million loss in 2015, according to the last annual accounts published by FIFA.

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