TIME Television

Mad Men‘s Creator Spent ‘a Couple of Years’ Approving That Coke Finale

Jon Hamm as Don Draper in AMC's Mad Men.
AMC Jon Hamm as Don Draper in AMC's Mad Men.

For "a couple of years"

Don Draper bought the world a Coke in the series finale of Mad Men, but it was easier said than done. During an interview with Jimmy Kimmel on Tuesday night, star Jon Hamm revealed that while Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner had conceived of the finale’s last moments a couple of years prior, the tricky part was getting permission from Coke to actually make it a reality.

“There was a couple of years process of clearing that with Coca-Cola,” Hamm told Kimmel. After Kimmel joked that if Coke had said no, the show would have been “screwed,” Hamm agreed, and teased an alternate denouement. “Yeah. ‘No thanks.’ You’re like, All right, we’ll call it Coca… Cona,” he joked.

Mad Men ended in May with a scene that linked Don Draper to the famous “I’d Like to Buy The World a Coke” commercial from 1971.

“We’ve had limited awareness around the brand’s role in the series’ final episodes, and what a rich story they decided to tell,” a spokesperson for Coke told PEOPLE in the aftermath of the Mad Men finale. According to the rep, “no money exchanged hands” between the soft-drink company and AMC to facilitate the ad’s inclusion.

This article originally appeared on EW.com

MONEY Food & Drink

Yet Another Reason Why Soda Is the New Cigarette

Jose Azel—Getty Images

This move by Mickey D’s is very telling.

Soft drink sales continue to drop, and few have felt the pain as badly as SodaStream SODASTREAM INTERNATIONAL LTD. SODA -0.4% . The stock has shed more than 70% of its value since peaking two summers ago, fueled by a sharp drop in the popularity of its beverage makers that turn still into sparkling water.

The soda giants have also felt the pinch. Carbonated beverage sales have fallen for 10 consecutive years since peaking in 2004, according to industry tracker Beverage Digest. Concerns about the indulgent consumption of sugar and corn syrup haven’t helped, but diet soda sales have been falling even harder in recent years.

It’s against this backdrop that McDonald’s MCDONALD'S CORP. MCD -0.28% — the world’s leading burger chain — is shaking up its value meal profile. Mickey D’s is starting to sell small combo meals that don’t include a soda. The chain is selling a 10-piece serving of chicken nuggets with a small side of fries for just $2.50. It’s also pairing up the same small side of fries with a double cheeseburger at the same price.

One can argue that this is McDonald’s merely creating even lower price points for entire meals in a desperate attempt to win back customers. Domestic sales have been sluggish since late 2013, so if scaled-back meals without soft drinks selling for half the price of a $5 Subway sub do prove compelling, the chain’s a genius.

It’s also easy to see why this is a brilliant move. After all, what will guests order to wash down these petite offerings? McDonald’s is still going to sell a lot of sodas with these meals, but it’s also probably going to fall well short of its previous fountain sales. After all, there’s no shame in going with a free cup of ice water.

There’s also the ever-expanding line of McCafe premium beverages. There are now smoothies, mocha frappes, and other fancy coffee drinks that will fill in admirably for the soda that used to accompany value meals by default.

It gets worse. McDonald’s is also testing a new “mini meal” in select markets, where a signature burger is paired up with a small order of fries and a small soft drink. Offering a small soda is better than none at all, but using small as the default size naturally eats into the amount of cola syrup McDonald’s will go through.

So, yes, it is happening. McDonald’s used to rely on fountain sales as its juiciest-margin product category, but now it’s taking into account the unwelcome trends working against the carbonated beverage industry.

A decade ago, McDonald’s was criticized for trying to “supersize” value meals that featured large soft drinks. Now it seems to be going the other way. You know it’s bad when even McDonald’s is turning on your syrupy sweetness.

The carbonated beverage industry has its work cut out for itself as it tries to reverse this problematic 10-year trend. Right now, McDonald’s isn’t helping.

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4 Hugely Important Changes That Are Happening Before Our Eyes

exploding coke can
Maurice van der Velden—iStock

Things change.

Here are four things I’m pretty sure are changing before our eyes.

I wonder if Coke is the next Camel
Tobacco companies were icons of American style half a century ago. It wasn’t until 1964 that the Surgeon General published a report linking smoking to health risks.

This seems incomprehensibly stupid — you’d think the hacking cough would be a giveaway — but hindsight is 20/20.

I wonder if soda is following the same path.

There are so many similarities between cigarettes and soda…

A delicious and addictive product powered by brilliant marketing, sold as a lifestyle enhancer that brings joy to the masses — but at its core is an unhealthy product we know contributes to chronic illness, higher medical costs, etc.

You can already see a trend in Coca-Cola’s soda sales. Industrywide soda sales are at the lowest level in two decades.

San Francisco supervisors voted unanimously this week to require soda bottles to start carrying warning labels. “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay,” they’ll say.

That’s pretty much what cigarettes have had to disclose since 1966.

The big differentiator is the lack of second-hand-soda risk. But if I had to place a bet on what we’ll look back 30 years from now and shake our heads at, it would be a simultaneous obesity/diabetes crisis while soda companies are icons of happiness and joy.

I wonder if for-profit education is done
Take an emotional industry, tie it to a dream, distort the facts about that dream, jack up the price against the existing market, and let 18-year-olds pay for it with rubber-stamped government-provided loans.

What could possibly go wrong?

After Corinthian Colleges was shut down for misleading students, and those students will likely have their student loans forgiven, I wonder about the future of for-profit education. My guess is it’s limited.

For-profit schools have the highest dropout rates, the lowest completion rates, the highest student-loan burdens, the highest student-loan default rates, the lowest job placement rates, and so on.

There’s growing panic about a student-loan bubble. If you dig into the numbers, I think you’ll be shocked at how much of that bubble is specifically tied to for-profit schools.

Only 16% of students at for-profit schools were debt-free, and 65% had more than $28,000 of student loans. At public schools, the same numbers were 40% and 14%, respectively, according to the College Board. For-profit schools originate about 10% of student loans but account for nearly 50% of defaults.

And the entire industry relies on government-funded student loans. As more politicians balk at the results of for-profit schools, I can’t see how the industry maintains a viable future in its current form.

My guess is it will shake out into a niche that focuses on training careers that traditional schools don’t, like welding and machinery, rather than competing head to head with traditional schools.

I wonder if it’s different this time
“It’s different this time” are supposed to be the four most dangerous words in finance, used at the top of bubbles to justify idiocy.

But the more I look into it, the more I see that it’s always different this time.

No two booms, busts, recessions, or expansions are the ever the same. The way we measure the economy, the stock market, corporate profits, and productivity are constantly changing over time. The S&P 500 used to be made up of a bunch of railroads and industrial socks. Now it’s nearly half tech and financial stocks, and banks weren’t even included in the index until 1976.

So how do we compare today’s market to the past? We can’t. It’s different this time.

I have seen time and again investors get irreversibly slaughtered by clinging to historic data and assuming the market will cleanly revert to time-tested norms. And I’ve seen time and again that the best investors are open-minded and respect the fact that things change.

I’ve become skeptical of long-term historical comparisons being used for anything more than entertainment purposes.

But I can’t tell you how uncomfortable this feeling is. The market rallies 200%, and all the sudden I’m skeptical of historical comparisons. It’s the perfect setup for feeling like an idiot once the market crashes.

Here’s what I’ve concluded: Data is always different this time. Valuation metrics are always different this time. How the economy grows is always different this time. But human emotions — greed, shortsightedness, overconfidence, extrapolation, psychopathy, and overreaction — are timeless. They’re never different this time.

I wonder why nobody is happy
If, six years ago, you told someone that that by 2015 the stock market tripled, unemployment fell to 5.5%, job openings were the highest in 15 years, housing prices were surging again, the budget deficit fell 70%, corporate profits were at an all-time high, and businesses had more cash than they knew what to do with, they’d say you’re crazy. Yet it’s what happened.

The outcome we’ve had since 2009 is better than almost anyone predicted at the time.

But I’ve been surprised at how little fanfare there’s been celebrating this recovery. I see about as much cynicism and disappointment today as I did four or five years ago.

That’s partly because so much of the recovery has helped a small minority of the population, while many are still worse off now than they were before.

But a lot of it — and I don’t think this gets enough credit — is that it’s easy to ignore progress when things improve slowly.

The economy is clearly better off today than it was five years ago. But it’s only a little better than it was a year ago, which was only a little better than the year before it, and so on. This makes it easy to miss the bigger trend.

If that’s the reason people are still cynical, there’s a sad conclusion: A lot of people will pretty much never be happy with the economy, because all improvement is slow and gradual.

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MONEY stocks

These Are Warren Buffett’s Favorite Dividend Stocks

Forbes' 2015 Philanthropy Summit Awards Dinner
Dimitrios Kambouris—Getty Images Warren Buffett speaks during the Forbes' 2015 Philanthropy Summit Awards Dinner on June 3, 2015 in New York City.

The billionaire's own company doesn't pay them out, but it still invests in plenty of other stocks that do.

Warren Buffett loves dividend stocks. While Berkshire Hathaway does not pay any dividends, many of the largest positions in the company’s portfolio are among the most solid dividend stocks on the market, this includes names such as Coca-Cola COCA-COLA COMPANY KO 0.75% , Wells Fargo WELLS FARGO & COMPANY WFC -0.16% , and IBM INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. IBM -0.7% , among several others.

Warren Buffett loves dividend stocks
Going through Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio, it’s easy to identify many of the most prominent dividend stocks across different sectors in the market. Coca-Cola is one of the most iconic Warren Buffett stocks, and the company has an outstanding track record of dividend growth over the long term: Coca-Cola has increased its dividends in each year over the last 52 years, and the stock pays a dividend yield of 3.3% at current prices.

Wells Fargo is Warren Buffett’s favorite bank, and also the biggest position in Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio. The company has a simple and low-risk capital allocation policy, which makes it a particularly strong choice for dividend investors looking for sound alternatives in the banking sector.

Wells Fargo had to cut dividends during the financial crisis in 2009, but the company has rapidly compensated investors with growing dividends since then, what was a quarterly payment of $0.05 in 2010 has now turned to 0.375 quarterly, and Wells Fargo is currently paying a 2.7% dividend yield.

Warren Buffett typically stays away from companies in the tech business, but he made a notable exception with IBM. Buffett first invested in Big Blue in 2011, and he has been adding to the position in recent quarters. Due to its brand presence and established relationships with major corporate customers across the world, IBM is a particularly solid play in the tech industry, and management has translated the company’s strengths into growing dividends for investors over the long term.

IBM has paid uninterrupted dividends since 1916, and it has increased payments over the last 20 consecutive years. Dividends have doubled in the last five years, and this includes a generous dividend hike of 18% for 2015. After the latest increase, IBM is paying a dividend yield of 3%.

On dividends and competitive strengths
Dividends can say a lot about the health of a business. In order to distribute consistently growing cash flows to investors, a company has to generate more cash than in needs to reinvest in its operations over time.

This means that companies with outstanding dividend growth are usually those with enough soundness to successfully go through the ups and downs of the business cycle, and they also have the competitive strengths to protect their sales and cash flows from the competition. With this in mind, it’s no wonder why many Warren Buffett stocks are also outstanding dividend payers.

Berkshire Hathaway is a notable exception to the rule, as the company pays no dividends whatsoever. However, this is related to Berkshire’s business model and the amazing investing talent of Warren Buffett. Berkshire is in the business of capital allocation, the company generates far more cash than it needs to reinvest in its operations, but Warren Buffett retains that cash in order to allocate it to different investment opportunities.

For a company like Coca-Cola, or most other businesses in the world for that matter, the right thing to do with excess cash flows is distributing that money to investors. However, investors in Berkshire Hathaway are better served by leaving that money in Buffett’s hands, so the Oracle of Omaha can put it to work and obtain superior returns over time. Berkshire doesn’t pay any dividends, but that’s only because Buffett can put that money to better use, not because the business does not generate enough cash to make dividend distributions.

Dividends convey important information about a company’s fundamental strengths, and Warren Buffett is all about investing in top-quality businesses with undisputed soundness. With this in mind, going for companies with a solid track record of dividend growth could be a smart way to follow Warren Buffett’s guidelines when making investment decisions.

Read next: Warren Buffett Says He Would Never, Ever Do These 3 Things

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TIME coca-cola

You Won’t Believe What Coca-Cola Is Using to Make its Bottles

Coca-Cola Co. Prepares To Release Quarterly Earnings Numbers
Tom Pennington—Getty Images

An earlier version was released in 2009

Coca-Cola now makes some of its bottles entirely out of sugar cane, the company trumpeted recently at the Expo Milano food conference.

Called the PlantBottle, the packaging differs in that it’s derived from sugar cane, not petroleum.

“The first-ever fully recyclable PET plastic beverage bottle made partially from plants looks and functions just like traditional PET plastic, but has a lighter footprint on the planet and its scarce resources,” the company said in a release. The new technology accounts for 30% of the company’s packaging in North America and 7% globally, Coca-Cola said.

The packaging isn’t entirely new. A version was first released in 2009, but at that time it was 30% plant-based plastic, according to Business Insider. Now, it’s made from 100% plastic derived from sugar cane.

More: Read about Coca-Cola in the new Fortune 500 list

“To date, more than 35 billion PlantBottle packages have been distributed in nearly 40 countries,” said Coca-Cola in a statement. “The technology has enabled us to eliminate the potential for more than 315,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions—equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from burning more than 743,000 barrels of oil—and save more than 36 million gallons of gas.”

TIME coca-cola

The Iconic Coca-Cola Bottle Is Getting a Surprising Update

Coca-Cola Buys North American Bottling Operations Of Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. For $12.3 Billion
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Coca-Cola can and bottle images appear on the side of a trailer outside the Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. bottling facility in Niles, Illinois, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010.

It's pretty sweet

Coca-Cola has come up with a new bottle: one made entirely of plant material—including sugarcane.

It’s called the “PlantBottle.” Coke debuted it as the World Expo in Milan, Italy, a food-tech conference.

Coke said in a statement that the PlantBottle represents a “more responsible plant-based alternative to packaging traditionally made from fossil fuels and other nonrenewable materials.” The company will use the container across its beverage brands: soft drinks, water, juice, and tea.

PlantBottle is “the globe’s first fully recyclable PET plastic bottle made entirely from renewable materials,” said Nancy Quan, Coke’s global research and development officer, in the statement.

The bottles are still plastic, but made from plants including sugarcane and byproducts of processing sugarcane, rather than petroleum products, which leave a much larger environmental footprint. It was developed in partnership with Virent, a processor of biofuels and biochemicals.

Coke made something of a splash in 2009, when it announced that its containers would be made up of 30% plant material. It has sold 35 million of those bottles since then. Coke says those bottles have kept a total of 315,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from being released into the atmosphere.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Coke plans widespread distribution of the bottles by 2020.


This Massive Bank Just Killed Voicemail

Getty Images

Please do not leave a message after the beep

Who even leaves voice messages anymore?

That’s what executives at JPMorgan Chase & Co. started to ask themselves before deciding to phase out the communication tool in its consumer banking division, Bloomberg reports. The bank announced its intention to cut the cord on employee voicemail at a conference in New York on Tuesday.

“We realized that hardly anyone uses voicemail anymore because we’re all carrying something in our pockets that’s going to get texts or e-mail or a phone call,” said Gordon Smith, head of the company’s consumer and community bank, according to Bloomberg. “So we started to cut those off.”

The technology cost the bank a monthly fee of $10 per line, Bloomberg said, citing Smith. So ditching the service for its nearly 136,000-person strong retail workforce could help the lender cut more than a million dollars in expenses. The company has already said it wants to cut its consumer bank’s budget by $2 billion dollars, although the savings from eliminating voicemail are small by comparison.

A spokeswoman told Bloomberg that some employees, like branch managers, will retain the service.

The bank joins a growing cadre of companies that have already hung up the phone on voicemail, including, notably, Coca-Cola.

The trend isn’t just corporate. In 2012, the Internet telephone company Vonage reported that it had seen an 8% decline in the number of voice mail boxes, as well as a similar drop in 2013. And a 2012 Pew study confirmed that teens prefer texting over calling by a wide margin.

Hopefully, email will be next to go. And then telemarketing robocalls.

MONEY stocks

Here’s the Company Warren Buffett Is Betting Big on Now

Rick Wilking—Reuters Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett

He just dropped nearly $400 million on this bank stock.

“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”
–Mae West

Warren Buffett must feel that way about megabank Wells Fargo WELLS FARGO & COMPANY WFC -0.16% . At the end of 2014, Berkshire Hathaway held more than 463 million shares of the company, worth $25.4 billion. Berkshire’s stake in Wells Fargo was the largest holding in its portfolio by a country mile: It constituted about 24% of Berkshire’s portfolio and was worth $8.5 billion more than the second-largest holding, Coca-Cola.

And it seems Berkshire loves Wells as much as ever: In the most recently ended quarter, Buffett — or Berkshire portfolio managers Ted Weschler and Todd Combs — bought another 6.8 million shares, worth more than $382 million at recent market prices.

Why is Buffett willing to commit so much of Berkshire’s wealth to this company? Let’s take a closer look.

Sticking with what you’re good at
Buffett has more than proven his investing and business prowess in the insurance and banking industries. These are businesses in which having a margin of safety is incredibly important.

In banking, as we learned through the economic crisis and the liquidity crunch that followed, banks that effectively manage their risk — like Wells Fargo — can be fantastic long-term investments. For Buffett to risk such a large stake on this one bank says a lot about his comfort with Wells Fargo’s management team and their ability both to manage the bank’s risk and to make profitable lending decisions.

Here’s a look at Wells Fargo’s bottom-line results, as many of its megabank peers were struggling in the 2007-2009 banking crisis:

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 11.50.27 AM

Wells Fargo continued to deliver solid profits while other banks suffered massive losses. True, Wells did receive $25 billion in funds from the U.S. federal government in 2008, but by December 2009 the company had paid back that $25 billion — plus an additional $1.4 billion in dividends — making it one of the first banks to demonstrate its stability in the wake of the financial crisis.

But what it really boils down to is this: How good is the bank at turning profits on its assets? Wells Fargo is almost peerless in the world of U.S.-based big banks:

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 11.51.28 AM

Meanwhile, its ability to grow earnings per share has been unparalleled:

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 11.52.19 AM

Berkshire is not risking too much capital

Average investors should not generally hold a quarter of their portfolio in a single stock, but a few things bear pointing out:

  • A concentrated portfolio can be profitable if you’re disciplined and patient and really know the companies and industries you invest in.
  • The Berkshire portfolio will continue to grow for decades to come as Buffett, Combs, and Weschler continue buying more great stocks.
  • The value of Berkshire Hathaway’s operating businesses need to be factored in, too.
Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 11.53.36 AM

The Berkshire stock portfolio is only part of the profit-producing machine that is Berkshire Hathaway. Think about it this way: Berkshire has a market capitalization of around $356 billion, while the stock portfolio is worth $107 billion and change.

In this context, Wells Fargo only makes up about 7% of Berkshire’s market value.

Is Wells Fargo right for your portfolio?
Wells Fargo is one of the best-run banks on the market. It pays a dividend yielding a respectable 2.7% at recent prices, and along with JPMorgan Chase, it’s one of the few big banks that pay a higher dividend today than they did before the recession. Furthermore, that dividend is likely to grow over time as the company grows its earnings. The bank has increased its dividend every year since 2011 and will raise it 7% in 2015. As CEO John Stumpf said on the recent earnings call, “returning capital to shareholders remains a priority” for management.

Since the beginning of the financial crisis and recession, Wells has issued a lot of shares, adding more than 50% to the outstanding share count. This was a product of necessity: A significant portion of the capital raised was used to meet higher liquidity standards for banks. But it was also used opportunistically to grow — take for example the stock-funded, $14.8 billion acquisition of Wachovia in 2008. Since mid-2013, however, Wells management has repurchased more than 140 million shares, reducing the outstanding count by almost 3%.

Add it all up, and Wells Fargo is one of the best-run banks of any size, with as strong a long-term track record of earnings growth (and loss avoidance) as you’ll find. I’ll let Warren Buffett sum it up in this quote (emphasis mine):

When assets are 20 times equity — a common ratio in this industry — mistakes that involve only a small portion of assets can destroy a major portion of equity. And mistakes have been the rule rather than the exception at many major banks. Most have resulted from a managerial failing that we described last year when discussing the “institutional imperative”: the tendency of executives to mindlessly imitate the behavior of their peers, no matter how foolish it may be to do so. In their lending, many bankers played follow-the-leader with lemming-like zeal; now they are experiencing a lemming-like fate.

Because leverage of 20:1 magnifies the effects of managerial strengths and weaknesses, we have no interest in purchasing shares of a poorly managed bank at a “cheap” price. Instead, our only interest is in buying into well-managed banks at fair prices. With Wells Fargo, we think we have obtained the best managers in the business.

Those words sound especially relevant following the financial crisis, right? Well, Buffett wrote them in 1990. A quarter-century later, plenty of bankers still make bad decisions, while Wells continues to avoid the pitfalls. Does that mean it’s a good fit for your your portfolio? I’d say it’s worth a close look.

Jason Hall owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway, and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway, Citigroup Inc, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo.

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Major FIFA Sponsors Don’t Want to Talk About Qatar, Either

adidas Starts Production of Brazuca Match Balls
Lennart Preiss—Getty Images for adidas Brazuca match balls for the FIFA World Cup 2014 lie in a rack in front of the adidas logo on December 6, 2013 in Scheinfeld near Herzogenaurach, Germany.

Few want to discuss soccer's most important crisis

After Wednesday’s news that the U.S. government indicted top soccer officials on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering, FIFA’s corporate sponsors expressed concern, saying they were monitoring the situation. They did their predictable finger-waving.

“Our sponsorship has always focused on supporting the teams, enabling a great fan experience, and inspiring communities to come together and celebrate the spirit of competition and personal achievement,” Visa, one of FIFA’s parters, said in a statement. “And it is important that FIFA makes changes now, so that the focus remain on these going forward. Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”

But companies like Visa should have reassessed their FIFA sponsorship long before the arrests. Because while the scale of the alleged corruption — over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks, according to the Justice Department — is shocking, another scandal has been brewing for years now. And this one involves the loss of many lives.

In December 2010, FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a tiny, oil-rich Gulf state with little existing World Cup infrastructure and a dangerously hot climate, for both players and the thousands of migrant workers that have been needed to built the World Cup edifices. As a result, a humanitarian crisis has unfolded. According to a March 2014 report from the International Trade Union Confederation, 1,200 World Cup workers from Nepal and India have died in Qatar since 2010. The ITCU estimates that 4,000 workers could die before the 2022 World Cup kicks off. The Washington Post, drawing on multiple sources, created a graphic comparing World Cup worker deaths in Qatar with fatalities associated with other major sporting events, like the 2012 London Olympics, the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The differences are stunning.

On top of that, the Nepalese labor minister recently told The Guardian that many World Cup migrants from Nepal have not been permitted to return home from Qatar to mourn family members killed in the April 25 earthquake, which claimed over 8,000 lives.

So FIFA’s most galling corruption isn’t directly connected to the headline-grabbing U.S. indictments. (Yesterday, the Swiss government announced it has launched a criminal investigation into the bid process for both the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 Cup in Qatar). If anything, the publicity surrounding the arrests will shine further light into the Qatar crisis.

And what do Visa and other sponsors have to say about Qatar? Not a whole lot.

TIME reached out to six companies listed in FIFA’s “2015-2022 sponsorship portfolio:” FIFA partners Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai/Kia and Visa, and World Cup sponsors Anheuser-Busch InBev and McDonald’s. We did not seek comment from the seventh sponsor, Russian gas giant Gazprom, whose sponsorship is listed as “2018 only” — connected with the World Cup in Russia. We asked each of them: “how can your company support an organization that is staging an event in Qatar, a place where a humanitarian crisis has unfolded during World Cup preparations, a place where, according to one report, at least 1,200 people have died during World Cup preparations, a place where migrant workers were reportedly not allowed to go home to mourn earthquake victims in Nepal?”

No company made any executive available to answer this question. TIME directly emailed the question to John Lewicki, head of global alliances for McDonald’s and Lucas Herscovici, vice president consumer connections (media, digital, sports & entertainment) at Anheuser-Busch InBev. Neither executive directly responded. We got a flurry of statements. A Visa rep directed TIME to the statement it posted Wednesday in response to the arrests. “Our disappointment and concern with FIFA in light of today’s developments is profound,” the statement said, in part. “As a sponsor, we expect FIFA to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organization. This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere.” When we pointed out that that statement was not specific to the loss of life in Qatar, the rep directed us to an earlier statement, released May 19. “We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions. We have expressed our grave concern to FIFA and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organizations to remedy this situation and ensure the health and safety of all involved.”

An Adidas rep sent along a statement: “The adidas Group is fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance, and we expect the same from our partners. Following today’s news, we can therefore only encourage FIFA to continue to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do. adidas is the world’s leading football brand and we will continue to support football on all levels.” This statement, too, is a response to the arrests, not our Qatar question. We pointed this out to Adidas. A spokesperson said this was the company’s standing response.

More than 20 hours after this story was published, Adidas sent another statement: “The adidas Group is committed to ensuring fair labour practices, fair wages and safe working conditions in factories throughout our global supply chain. These active efforts are guided by our core values as a company as well as by our Workplace Standards – contractual obligations under the manufacturing agreements the adidas Group signs with its main business partners. The Workplace Standards are based on the International Labour Organization’s (ILO’s) core labour rights conventions.

“We are in a constant dialogue with our partner FIFA and know that FIFA has repeatedly urged the Qatari authorities to ensure decent conditions for migrant workers in the country. There have been significant improvements and these efforts are ongoing; but everyone recognizes that more needs to be done in a collective effort with all stakeholders involved.”

A Hyundai representative also did not answer the question directly, saying through a statement, “as a company that place the highest priority on ethical standards and transparency, Hyundai Motor is extremely concerned about the legal proceedings being taken against certain FIFA executives and will continue to monitor the situation closely.” A Kia official said in a statement: “Kia Motors takes seriously any reports concerning the poor treatment of migrant workers involved in the construction of venues for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It is our understanding that FIFA and related authorities are taking immediate steps to secure appropriate standards of welfare for all workers involved in these projects, and we will continue to monitor developments in Qatar very closely.” Hyundai is the parent company of Kia.

The statement from McDonald’s: “McDonald’s is committed to doing business around the world in a manner that respects human rights. We have expressed our concerns to FIFA regarding human rights issues in Qatar and know they are working with local authorities to address those concerns.”

Coke: “The Coca-Cola Company does not condone human rights abuses anywhere in the world. We know FIFA is working with Qatari authorities to address specific labor and human rights issues. We expect FIFA to continue taking these matters seriously and to work toward further progress. We welcome constructive dialogue on human rights issues, and we will continue to work with many individuals, human rights organizations, sports groups, government officials and others to develop solutions and foster greater respect for human rights in sports and elsewhere.”

Anheuser-Busch InBev: “We expect all of our partners to maintain strong ethical standards and operate with transparency, and are committed to business practices that do not infringe on human rights. We continue to closely monitor the situation through our ongoing communications with FIFA, including developments in Qatar.”

“It’s very bad business right now to be associated with FIFA,” says Ben Sturner, president and CEO of Leverage Agency, a sports marketing firm. “The Qatar situation is going to force more sponsors away. They have to go away. It’s the humane thing to do.” Do iconic brands like McDonald’s, Coke, and others really feel this way?

If so, they aren’t saying.

TIME Advertising

Here’s How Major FIFA Sponsors Are Reacting to the Scandal

After nine FIFA officials were arrested, sponsors are in the spotlight

The dollar figures associated with the FIFA are all outsize, including the amount of money it garners every year from marketing partnerships. In 2014, it was $177 million.

The corporations that contribute to that sum immediately became the target of scrutiny on Wednesday when the United States Department of Justice unsealed a 47-count indictment that charged nine FIFA officials and five sports marketing executives with racketing, wire fraud and money-laundering.

The indictment placed FIFA sponsors in a pickle: should they continue to market their products through a sport with millions of fans but whose governing body is allegedly seeping with corruption?

Cue sponsors’ delicate dance.

Visa Inc., which has partnered with FIFA since 2007, told The Wall Street Journal the investigations could cause the company to end its agreement, which runs until 2022. Visa said that it had informed the federation that it “will reassess its sponsorship” if FIFA fails to rebuild “a culture with strong ethical practices to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere”

Adidas AG told the Journal that it was monitoring the situation, as did Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. Hyundai Motors said it was “deeply concerned” about the allegations.

It’s safe to say FIFA’s sponsors are in a tough spot. Wednesday’s indictment was scalding, but it’s unlikely to deplete the sport’s massive fan following. An estimated 1 billion people watched at least one minute of the 2010 World Cup final. For comparison, 114.4 million people tuned into this year’s Super Bowl.

Like it or not, FIFA sponsors’ immediate reaction to Wednesday’s news is in line with how sponsors have reacted to other sports scandals. When the National Football League faced criticism this fall for how it handled players’ questionable conduct, companies like Pepsi and Anheuser-Busch voiced concern over the incidents but they never withdrew their sponsorships.

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