Thursday, February 14, 2008

Olympic sponsors concerned about image problem

The Wall Street Journal reports today that Hollywood director Steven Spielberg's decision yesterday to resign as an adivser the 2008 Olympics in Beijing could signal a turning point in the effort to shame China for its ongoing relationship with the governement of Sudan. Growing numbers of athletes and entertainers are joining human rights activists in pressuring advertisers to justify their association with the controversial games.

For corporate sponsors, the stakes are high. The opening ceremonies are expected to be the first television sporting event watched live around the world by more than one billion people. In some cases, sponsors have shelled out more than $80 million for the rights to associate themselves with the Beijing Games. And as the first Olympics in China, the event is being used by multinational brands as an opportunity to build credibility with a booming consumer market that is playing an increasingly important role in their global sales.

June Teufel Dreyer, a China specialist at the University of Miami told Evan Osnos of the Chicago Tribune that advertisers "want to get their logos in front of the spectators [and] they will say that the Olympics are about sport, not politics." Dreyer added that she didn't expect any widescale pullout of advertising dollars from the events big corporate sponsors such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola.

photo by nimboo (CC)


Amanda said...

China definitely has an image problem when it comes to supporting bad governments.

Put simply, China is the funder, weapons supplier, and the diplomatic protector for Burma's terrible military regime. Like the Berlin Olympics in 1936 that wrongly brought world acclaim to Adolf Hitler, the Beijing Olympics in 2008 are becoming a monument to suffering.

In addition, the Olympics are scheduled to begin on August 8, 2008 -- the 20 year anniversary of when thousands of peaceful protesters were massacred by the regime during Burma's largest democracy uprising.

Recently, leading human rights activists inside Burma called on people throughout the world to turn off their televisions and not support the Beijing Olympics unless China stops propping up Burma's military regime.

Even though the Olympics is an athletic event, politics always come into play when nations gather. China cannot continue to deny this and needs to address these issues.

Matthew Hennessey said...

Thanks, Amanda, for pointing out that historical connection between China and Burma. While we should note that the Chinese have come quite a long way in the last 20 years (it's been about that long since Tiananmen), there is no excuse for the role China is playing in Burma at the moment.