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Should Olympic Sponsors be Selected?

Posted Nov 16 2009 10:02pm

by Brett Blumenthal

I, as I’m sure most people these past several days, have been enjoying some time watching the Olympics.  I could go on and on about how amazing the athletes are who make the grade to compete - they are truly awe inspiring, but today I want to focus on the sponsors.  Last night, as I watched the men’s diving competition, I was amazed at how many commercials for McDonald’s Chicken Breakfast Sandwich and Coca-Cola there were.   When I thought about it, I realized that for as long as I can remember, both of these companies were Official Worldwide sponsors of the Olympics. 

Call me crazy, but how do McDonald’s and Coca-Cola speak to world-class athleticism?  When it comes down to it, coughing up the big bucks is what gets these sponsors in, but wouldn’t you think that the IOC would have some sort of selection criteria about which sponsors make the grade?  They obviously have mastered the development of selection and rating criteria for the events themselves, why not pass it onto advertising? Granted, there are a lot of sponsors that ‘make sense’: GE, Kodak, Panasonic, Visa, to name a few.  But Fast Food and Junk Food companies just don’t sit well.  Here is why I think McDonald’s and Coca-Cola* fall short and what criteria should be considered:

  1. Definition of Athleticism: I admit…I’ve had McDonald’s and Coke, just as I’m sure some athletes and Olympic athletes have.  But do you really think that while preparing for Olympic competition, the Olympians are chowing down on Fried Chicken Breakfast Sandwiches and washing them down with a big super-sized Coke*?  I’d be hard pressed to believe so.
  2. Value: If we are going to think about the real value that sponsors’ products bring to the Olympics, GE, Kodak and Panasonic seem like no-brainers.  These fall into the realm of technology.  We all know and have observed that technology has become irreplaceable, as everything we see is digitized and computerized.  As a result, it is safe to say that without these technologies, the Olympics wouldn’t be the same.  I’m not sure Chicken McNuggets, French Fries and Coke* really add value to the Olympic experience.  I think everyone could have just as great of an experience without these.
  3. World Health and Globalization: It has become common knowledge that Asia, as well as other communities, have seen growth in obesity rates due to the influx of American Fast Foods.  Spreading the word about Fast Food and soft drinks during a global event only adds to this problem.  When was the last time you saw a poor, malnourished child holding a Big Mac?  How about having food companies, such as Monsanto, that help malnourished countries and communities sponsor the Olympics?
  4. Relevance: Neither company has any relevance to the Olympics.  Plain and simple.  What types of companies are relevant?  Sports companies, travel companies, technology companies, financing companies, the list goes on.  Companies that MAKE the Olympics happen…companies that MAKE the Olympics what they are.

What do you think?  Do you think sponsors for the Olympics should pass certain criteria?

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*Yes, Coca-Cola has over 400 brands and 2,600 beverage products, but let’s face it, their Olympic advertising focuses on their core product: Coca-Cola.  If they chose to highlight some of their more nutritious products, or even their more sustainable practices that they are working on (recycling water, plastic and glass bottles) maybe I wouldn’t be so quick to judge.
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