Three corporate sponsors – Mastercard, Ambev and Diageo – have withdrawn their brands from the Copa America soccer competition in Brazil, which is set to kick off on Sunday despite the Covid-19 crisis raging in the country.
The largest country in Latin America Offered to host The regional tournament at the end of last month after the cancellation of former hosts Argentina and Colombia. Buenos Aires cited a Increase in the number of cases of corona virus, while Bogotá blamed local protests.
Brazil’s decision to intervene, which had the support of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, drew criticism from many medical figures and opposition politicians, who argued that it risks spreading the virus further as the pandemic continues unabated in the country.
Mastercard said after careful analysis that it has decided to remove its branding from this year’s Copa America, although it will remain a sponsor of the competition, which has already been postponed in 2020.
British liquor group Diageo, which owns Smirnoff, Guinness and Johnnie Walker, said it would halt all brand activities “given the current health situation in Brazil and in relation to the timing of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
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“The terms of the sponsorship were agreed upon when the event was to be held in Colombia and Argentina,” the company added. “Diagio reiterates its commitment to the community, and adheres to safety protocols and institutional procedures that contribute to mitigating the epidemic.”
Brazilian beer maker Ambev, which is part of the world’s largest brewer AB InBev, has stated that its “brands will not be located in Copa America.”
The no-confidence votes come as Brazil faces a possible third wave of Covid-19 infections as the coldest season begins.
With more than 480,000 people killed, the country has the second highest number of deaths from respiratory illness after the United States. a lack of punches hampered vaccination campaigns.
“We are still in a very dangerous situation,” said Marcelo Ramos, a public health researcher at the Vuecruz Institute of Biomedicine. “When it was announced that Brazil would host the Copa America, the message was that we are in a calm situation, and this does not correspond to reality.”
However, this week the country’s health minister insisted that holding the football competition would not lead to any additional risk of contamination, as no fans would attend the matches.
Bolsonaro has earned international scorn for his handling of the pandemic, which has included cutting back on the use of masks and speaking out about the importance of vaccines.
But the former army captain received a boost when the Brazilian supermarket chain Havan, whose founder Luciano Hang is a vociferous supporter of the president, announced it would sponsor the tournament.
“I am sure it will be a competition that will delight the entire Brazilian people,” he said.
Brazil’s Supreme Court this week rejected attempts to block the country from hosting the Copa America.
Neither the Brazilian Football Confederation nor the South American Football Confederation responded to requests for comment.