A trio of corporate sponsors – Mastercard, Ambev and Diageo – have pulled their marks from the Copa America football competition in Brazil, which is set to launch on Sunday despite the country’s furious Covid-19 crisis.
The largest nation in Latin America offered to welcome the regional tournament at the end of last month after previous co-hosts Argentina and Colombia canceled. Buenos Aires cited one increasing number of coronavirus cases, while Bogota accused and domestic protests.
Brazil’s decision to intervene, which had the support of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, has been censored by several opposition medical and political figures, who have argued that it risks spreading the virus further since the pandemic. continues unabated in the country.
Mastercard said after careful analysis that it had decided to withdraw its mark from this year’s Copa America, even though it would remain a sponsor of the competition, which was already postponed to 2020.
The British alcoholic beverage group Diageo, which owns Smirnoff, Guinness and Johnnie Walker, has said it will stop all branding activities “given the current health situation in Brazil and as of the time of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
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“The terms of sponsorship were agreed upon when the event was planned to take place in Colombia and Argentina,” the company added. “Diageo reiterates its commitment to society by observing security protocols and institutional actions that contribute to pandemic mitigation.”
Brazilian brewery Ambev, which is part of the world’s largest brewery AB InBev, said “its brands will not be present at the Copa America.”
Confidence comes when Brazil faces a third potential wave of Covid-19 infections with the coolest season coming.
With more than 480,000 victims lost, the country has the second-highest number of deaths from respiratory disease after the United States. A lack of shots has prevented vaccination campaigns.
“We are still in a very serious situation,” said Marcelo Ramos, a public health researcher at the Fiocruz Biomedical Institute. “When it was announced that Brazil was going to host the Copa America, the message was that we were in a calm situation, which did not correspond to reality.”
However, this week the country’s health minister insisted that football competition would not generate any additional risk of contamination, as no fans would take part in the matches.
Bolsonaro has won international acclaim for his handling of the pandemic, which included disregarding the use of masks and talking about the importance of vaccines.
But the former army captain received a boost when Brazilian store chain Havan, whose co-founder Luciano Hang is a staunch supporter of the president, announced he would sponsor the tournament.
“I am sure it will be a competition that will please the entire Brazilian population,” he said.
This week Brazil’s supreme court rejected attempts to prevent the country from hosting the Copa America.
The Brazilian Football Confederation and the South American Football Confederation did not respond to requests for comment.