Prosecutor Tries to Suspend Brazil World Cup Ad Campaign

Brazil’s efforts to tout the benefits of hosting soccer’s World Cup to a skeptical nation have been hit by a lawsuit calling for an advertisement to be withdrawn on the basis it is “absurdly divorced from reality.”

The suit calls for the suspension of television and Internet spots that compare spending on the 12 World Cup stadiums to the amount Brazil invests in health, education and transportation. The government has also issued leaflets with the same information and other examples of how the country will benefit from staging soccer’s showpiece.

“Besides not matching reality, the contents of the advertisement reaches the collective unconscious with the subliminal message that the federal government has fulfilled all its promises,” prosecutor Ailton Benedito said in comments published on the federal attorneys’ office website. The government’s press office wasn’t able to comment immediately.

The suit was filed by the federal prosecutors’ office in the state of Goias against the Brazilian government, saying that it has broken the law by making false claims. Each state has federal prosecutors that are independent of the federal government.

The advertisement is part of a push by Brazil to get the country behind the World Cup, which starts in two weeks. Support for the $11 billion event has continued to fall since nationwide protests during last year’s Confederations Cup, a warmup for the tournament. Support for the World Cup fell to a record-low 52 percent, a poll released by Datafolha in February showed.

Efforts to highlight the benefits of the tournament should have started sooner, Brazil’s Deputy Sports Minister Luis Fernandes said yesterday. There was an assumption that the country would naturally back the competition, which Brazil has won a record five times, Fernandes said on a conference call with foreign media.

Higher Costs

Cost overruns and delays have hit almost all of the 12 stadiums that will host games. Many transport projects related to the event have been scrapped or won’t be completed until after the July 13 final.

“The government’s campaign has announced that the tournament will bring great benefits to the Brazilian people through public investments that have been made in urban infrastructure and public services,” said the statement on the prosecutors’ website. “This is not the reality.”

Fernandes said he expects the event to lead to future benefits. An independent study found the Confederations Cup generated 10 billion reais ($4.47 billion) for the tourism sector, he said, even though 98 percent of attendees were from within Brazil. About 500,000 World Cup tickets have been sold to overseas fans.

There is “no embarrassment and no panic” in the government, Fernandes said. “We are confident, excited and proud that we’ll deliver a fantastic World Cup in Brazil.”