With less than two weeks to go before the Winter Games begin in Beijing, several Olympic sponsors are skipping what is usually an Olympic-themed publicity blitz.
In 2018, Visa Inc.
ramped up its Olympic marketing campaign months before the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. He marked the 100 day countdown to the lighting of the torch on Twitter. He showcased his Team Visa athletes and promoted the portable payment devices used at the event.
This time around, the credit card giant and longtime Olympic sponsor did not tweet about its sponsorship of the event or issue press releases. Visa did not return requests for comment.
Sponsors of the 2022 Winter Games are caught in a billion-dollar stalemate this year: US officials, along with some lawmakers from other Western countries and some human rights activists, have said the Beijing’s treatment of the predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang amounts to a form of genocide.
Beijing denies the allegations and has protested what it calls attempts to politicize the Games. He has also increasingly punished companies he says have addressed the issue, through public criticism, regulatory scrutiny and encouraging consumer boycotts in what has become a market. crucial for many brands.
“Sponsors are trying to weather the storm,” said Rick Burton, who was marketing director for the US Olympic Committee at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The companies have made huge investments in sponsorship deals and risk missing out on the global marketing opportunities the money has bought them, he said, but “they have businesses to operate in China.”
One hundred days before the 2018 Games in South Korea, sponsor Procter & Gamble Co.
released “Love over Bias,” an ad campaign for the Wellness Olympics with a video that debuted on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show. Marking the same 100-day countdown, Coca-Cola Co.
released Olympians TV commercials that he endorsed. He put one of them, figure skater Nathan Chen, on a billboard in Times Square in New York. Neither P&G PG 0.38%
neither Coca-Cola launched a major American advertising campaign for the Beijing Games.
P&G did not respond to questions about its US marketing around the Beijing Games compared to previous years. In an interview, P&G chief financial officer Andre Schulten said the company’s messaging focuses on athletes and leaves marketing decisions around China and the Olympics to market leaders. “Each brand has its own context, there is not really a global approach. It’s done tactically and individually by market,” he said. In China, “the focus is on the customer”.
Coke is running an Olympic advertising campaign this year only in China, a company spokesperson said. He declined to say why Coke made this decision.
Not all sponsors are on the sidelines. Swiss watchmaker Omega SA, the official timekeeper of the Games, has launched a new watch marking the Beijing Olympics, a move it makes for most of the Games. Omega said it is committed to supporting Olympic sports and does not “get involved in certain political issues”.
The relatively calm marketing ahead of the Games is particularly noticeable for the 13 premier Olympic sponsors, including Visa, P&G and Coca-Cola. The International Olympic Committee received more than $1 billion from these top sponsors for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Rio 2016 Summer Games, combined, according to the latest IOC data.
In turn, sponsors can use official Olympic logos, such as the interlocking rings, for advertisements. The IOC says it recognizes and defends human rights, but it takes no position on the political structure, social situation or human rights standards in the host country. The IOC “must remain neutral on all global political issues,” the committee said.
Some of the same companies that remain silent have spoken out about human rights issues in other parts of the world. Coca-Cola, for example, has raised human rights concerns about Qatar ahead of another competition it sponsors, the FIFA World Cup, due to be held there later this year. Human rights organizations say Qatar forced migrant workers into inhumane and deadly conditions to build World Cup stadiums. The Qatari government denies the allegations and says it is determined to improve working conditions.
During a July hearing of the U.S. Congressional Executive Commission on China, Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) asked Coca-Cola why the Atlanta-based soda giant had publicly opposed the Georgia’s controversial election law last year, but won’t comment. on human rights in China ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
Coca-Cola’s global human rights chief Paul Lalli said Georgia is its home state where most of its employees work and live, and the company has always supported voting rights. . When it comes to the Olympics, “we don’t make decisions about those venues,” Lalli said. “We support and follow the athletes where they compete.”
The only sponsor that stood out is Intel Corp.
At the congressional hearing, Intel General Counsel Steven Rodgers was the only representative of the five major U.S. sponsors of the Games to say he agreed with Washington’s assessment that Beijing was committing a genocide in Xinjiang. He was also the only one to say he was ready to ask the IOC to postpone the Olympics to give China time to address human rights concerns.
In December, Intel sent a letter, which it also posted on its website, asking suppliers to avoid sourcing from Xinjiang. Soon after, Intel became the target of criticism from Beijing. The Global Times, a publication of China’s ruling Communist Party, said Intel’s position should motivate China to improve its domestic technology sector so that it does not have to depend on foreign suppliers such as Intel. A few days later, Intel apologized, saying it had written the letter to comply with US law and did not represent its position on Xinjiang.
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