The U.S. Olympic Committee has pulled its support of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing China’s “ongoing systematic targeting and persecution” of Tibetans and other ethnic minorities as a reason for their decision to withdraw from the games. The move comes at a time when many companies are reconsidering whether or not they should be supporting Chinese businesses due to geopolitical issues surrounding human rights violations in that country
The “2022 winter olympics sponsors” is a topic that has been in the news recently. The 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled to be held in Beijing, China and the U.S. Olympic Committee is trying to convince sponsors to stay with them despite the recent tensions between the two countries.
With less than two weeks before the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, a number of Olympic sponsors are foregoing what is typically an Olympics-themed advertising blitz.
In the months leading up to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Visa Inc. V -3.93 percent ramped up its Olympic marketing effort. On Twitter, it marked the start of the 100-day countdown until the torch lighting. It promoted wearable payment gadgets used at the event and showcased Team Visa athletes.
This time, the credit-card behemoth and long-time Olympic sponsor hasn’t tweeted or released any press releases regarding its support of the tournament. Visa has yet to respond to calls for comment.
Sponsors of the 2022 Winter Olympics are in a billion-dollar bind this year, as US authorities, along with certain politicians from other Western nations and some human-rights campaigners, have declared Beijing’s treatment of Xinjiang’s largely Muslim minority to be genocide.
Official Olympic insignia are allowed to be used in advertisements by major sponsors; a Visa commercial in Tokyo in 2020.
Photo courtesy of Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha
Beijing has denied the charges and has condemned efforts to politicize the Olympics. It has also been progressively punishing corporations that it believes have become involved in the problem, via public condemnation, regulatory scrutiny, and consumer boycotts in what has become an important market for many brands.
“Sponsors are attempting to weather the storm,” stated Rick Burton, the United States Olympic Committee’s top marketing officer during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. “They have businesses to run in China,” he said, adding that the corporations have made large expenditures in sponsorship partnerships and risk losing out on the worldwide marketing possibilities their money brought them.
A hundred days before the 2018 Games in South Korea, sponsor Procter & Gamble Co. PG 0.38% released “Love over Bias,” a feel-good Olympics ad campaign with a video that made its debut on Ellen DeGeneres ’ talk show. Marking the same 100-day countdown, Coca-Cola Co. KO -0.49% released TV commercials of the Olympians it endorsed. It put one of them, figure skater Nathan Chen, on a billboard in New York City’s Times Square. Neither P&G PG 0.38% nor Coca-Cola has launched a major U.S. advertising campaign for the Beijing Games.
P&G didn’t answer questions about its U.S. marketing around the Beijing Games compared with prior years. In an interview, P&G finance chief Andre Schulten said the company’s messaging focuses on the athletes and it leaves marketing decisions around China and the Olympics up to individual market leaders. “Every brand has their own context, there really is no global approach. It’s done tactically and individually by market,” he said. In China, “the focus is on the customer.”
According to a business representative, Coke is only undertaking an Olympic advertising campaign in China this year. He wouldn’t tell why Coke took such a move.
Last year, a Coca-Cola exhibit was set up at a supermarket in Beijing.
Reuters photo by tingshu wang
Not every sponsor is sitting on the fence. The official timekeeper of the Games, Swiss watchmaker Omega SA, has released a new watch commemorating the Beijing Olympics, as it does for most Games. Omega said that it is dedicated to Olympic sports and that it does not “become engaged in some political matters.”
The relatively quiet marketing ahead of the games is especially noticeable for the 13 top-tier Olympic sponsors, including Visa, P&G and Coca-Cola. The International Olympic Committee received more than $1 billion from such top-tier sponsors for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and the Rio 2016 Summer Games, combined, according to the latest IOC data.
Sponsors, in turn, are allowed to utilize official Olympic emblems for advertising, such as the interlaced rings. The IOC claims to respect and protect human rights, although it has no opinion on the host country’s political structure, socioeconomic conditions, or human-rights standards. The committee said that the IOC “must stay impartial on all global political problems.”
Omega, the Games’ official timekeeper, has unveiled a new watch commemorating the Beijing Olympics, as well as plans to open an Omega shop in Beijing in 2020.
Reuters photo by tingshu wang
Some of the same corporations that were previously silent have suddenly spoken out on human-rights concerns in other regions of the globe. Coca-Cola, for example, has expressed alarm about Qatar’s human rights record ahead of another event it sponsors, soccer’s World Cup, which will be staged there later this year. Human rights groups claim that Qatar has forced migrant laborers to work in harsh and dangerous circumstances in order to build World Cup stadiums. The government of Qatar disputes the charges and claims to be dedicated to improving working conditions.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) questioned Coca-Cola why the Atlanta-based beverage corporation loudly opposed Georgia’s contentious voting legislation last year but won’t speak on human rights in China ahead of the Beijing Olympics during a Congressional-Executive Commission on China meeting in July.
Paul Lalli, Coca-global Cola’s head of human rights, said Georgia was the firm’s home state, where the majority of its workers worked and lived, and that the company had a history of supporting voting rights. “We do not make choices on these host sites,” Mr. Lalli said of the Olympics. “Wherever the athletes compete, we support and follow them.”
To combat the fast-spreading Omicron version, China is implementing a tight set of Covid-19 guidelines during the Winter Olympics. The Wall Street Journal outlines how some of these limitations would operate, from a “closed-loop” system to a prohibition on screaming, and why, despite all attempts, an epidemic might still wreck contests. Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch/
Intel Corp. is the lone sponsor who has stood out. Steven Rodgers, Intel’s general counsel, was the only representative of the Games’ five main US sponsors to indicate he agreed with Washington’s view that Beijing was conducting genocide in Xinjiang during the congressional hearing. He was also the only one to declare he was prepared to urge the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Olympics to allow China more time to resolve the human-rights issues.
Intel wrote a letter to vendors in December, which it also posted on its website, requesting that they avoid purchasing from Xinjiang. Soon after, Intel was chastised by the Chinese government. Intel’s attitude should push China to enhance its local tech industry so it doesn’t have to depend on foreign suppliers like Intel, according to the Global Times, a journal of China’s governing Communist Party. Intel subsequently apologized, claiming that the letter was written to comply with US law and that it did not reflect its position on Xinjiang.
What You Should Know About the Winter Olympics in Beijing
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The “beijing winter olympics sponsor accountability act” is a bill that was introduced in the U.S. Congress to make sure that sponsors of the Olympics are held accountable for human rights violations during the games.
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