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Sponsorship Brings Great Value To Olympics

Olympics: Festival of capitalism?
Olympics: Festival of capitalism?

Recent criticism of Olympic sponsors detracts from the many benefits sponsorship brings to the sporting spectacle and to brands, says Sam Knight.

This week Coca-Cola and McDonalds’ sponsorship of the London Olympics were criticised by the  vice president of a leading medical body.

Whilst the timing of these comments can be put down to the hype and publicity surrounding the 100-day countdown until the games open, there is no ignoring the ongoing debate around whether or not certain brands should be allowed to sponsor the sporting extravaganza.

Some see these partnerships as a smokescreen for unethical practices; opposition to BP’s official London 2012 partnership, for example, has been widely publicised.

In fact some have gone as far as to argue that the Olympics is pretty much an ugly free-market festival of capitalism.

It’s clear that brands such as McDonalds may not seem to be a natural fit for a sporting event to the scale of the Olympics and may not reflect the ethos of the games.

However this illustrates the influential role sponsorship plays within the marketing mix. It allows the likes of McDonalds to change brand image through association. In this case McDonalds’ long-term objective is to inherit the positive values of the Olympic Games and get rid of any negative connotations currently held against the brand.

The diversification in McDonald’s product portfolio in recent years years, such as introducing fruit packets to restaurants, highlights the company’s commitment to repositioning itself as a healthier and more responsible brand. Its long-term sponsorship of the Olympics is an extension of this wider strategy.

Olympic partners have a valid role to play, their investment helps subsidise the cost of the games. Without these deals the financial burden would fall heavier on the taxpayers pockets. Furthermore revenue raised from sponsors allow the IOC to assist smaller nations to compete at the Olympics, this helps create a truly global games and creates a more level playing field.

One of the greatest feats of human endeavour occurs when communist states genuinely excel and often out-perform the capitalist West. Cuba will punch well above its weight in the medal table this summer and it is these ‘underdog’ stories that truly encapsulate the spirit of the Olympics.

Ultimately these partnerships are mutually beneficial for both the event and the sponsors. The commercialisation of the Olympics will always attract detractors who will question the responsibility of the IOC and the partners - but how about a bit of personal responsibility for adults and parental responsibility for parents? No one is forcing anybody to eat burgers and drink Coke. Let’s sit back, relax and enjoy what London 2012 has to offer.

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