Wharton on Navigating Olympic Sponsorship: Brand Marketing Without Alienation

I’ve been following the developments in Tibet with regard to the brutal actions being taken by the Chinese government against protesters, as well as the global ‘Capture the Torch’ campaign acts of protest as the Olympic Torch has made its way around the world and found this recently published article from Knowledge@Wharton to be not only timely but very insightful and thought provoking.

For the Beijing Olympics there are 12 “Worldwide Olympic Sponsors”, which have provided an estimated $866 million in sponsorship fees: Atos Origin, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Kodak, Lenovo (the only Chinese company of the 12), Manulife, McDonalds, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung, and Visa.

While some Wharton voices, such as Kenneth Shropshire, feel every participating sponsor should have a significant contingency plan in place, others like marketing professor John Zhang feel otherwise “With that many customers in front of you and the many business opportunities they represent, you do not worry about your return-on-investment [in sponsoring the Games]. You only worry about being outspent by someone else.”

Some other key points from the article:

  • According to a poll released this month from the polling firm Zogby International, 70% of American adults thought it was wrong for the IOC to allow China to host the Olypics, up from 44% a year ago.
  • New York City-based advocacy group Dream for Darfur issued a report last year grading corporate sponsors in terms of their responsiveness to events in Darfur: of the 19 Olympic sponsors, 12 received failing grades.
  • According to another Zogby poll released this month, a majority of Americans (55%) said they would avoid buying Chinese products in response to Chinese violations of human rights in Tibet and elsewhere. Yet a higher number (71%) said a complete boycott of the Olympic Games by the U.S. would be hypocritical because of the many products the U.S. imports from China.

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