Olympics in China – Are Corporate Sponsors Concerned about their Brand?


The Olympics is about as big as it gets for corporate sponsorship.

And this week has seen some interesting events in the form of protests that accompany the Olympic Torch relay. Amid requests from world leaders to boycott some elements of the event, are corporate sponsors worried about associating their brand with all that is going on?

Despite the market potential that China represents and the visibility that the Olympics brings across many industries, I would think there is a growing concern about positioning here. If nothing else, those in the sponsorship industry should be paying close attention as this plays out.

I reached out to my network recently for their feedback:

“Most folks sponsoring anything in China do it because they see a huge market. Tibet wouldn’t make a dime’s difference to that picture.

For the other negligible minority, Tibet is only one of a long list of concerns. In that sense, there are already other symptoms that cause apprehensions.

A venture-funding-specialist friend of mine predicted that China is fast heading into an overheated state; and that folks with long-term interests are taking their money (and baggage) out of China. So why would they even begin to sponsor?” Sastry Tumuluri, Founder/CEO at AntHill IdeaLabs

“I’m involved in the sponsorship marketing industry and, while I’m not currently working with Olympic partners, I’ve had an opportunity to speak with people who oversee these investments for the sponsors.

Truth of the matter is that sponsors are chomping at the bit to get access to the Chinese market. In fact, one gent from Visa almost grew faint when explaining the opportunity for that company (Chinese apparently don’t have much debt. Yet.) These sponsors see the Olympics as a way to both reach the masses and (more importantly) to create strategic ties to the Chinese government by supporting their ‘crown jewel’.

Sponsors of the Beijing Games have been preparing for (and spending on) this event since before the start of the 2004 Athens Olympics. A tremendous amount of time, energy, and money has already been committed.

As a result, I highly doubt that any Olympic sponsor has qualms about their ongoing participation in the 2008 Summer Games. To be certain, I’m sure they’re hopeful that the situation in Tibet will be resolved. But the plans for this event were put into place a long time ago are currently being executed at full speed ahead. ” David Almy, Owner at ADC Partners

“… Since China is the host of the Summer Games, we are calling on China to join the charity and reach out with aid to Darfur, and take the opportunity to be honorable hosts and follow the example of others who are doing positive things for the people of Darfur, who are hurting and being killed.

Maybe we can accomplish something by providing China with the opportunity to do honorable acts now that they are in the position of leadership, and the eyes of the entire world are watching. I hope this will produce more results than protests alone have (not much other than awareness … ” Jesse Gift, PR for Aid Still Required.org

As the Olympic torch relay makes its way through San Francisco today, it will be interesting to relate coverage of protests to sponsorship. Is this a challenge to the $ winning vs. human rights? Why is Tibet the most visible symbol of oppression when it is occurring in many places? Is it fair to the athletes to take a stand here? Are the athletes still using performance enhancing drugs? What exactly is the positioning here?

Or this simply not a Marketing issue? Over to you….




One thought on “Olympics in China – Are Corporate Sponsors Concerned about their Brand?

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