Will the Beijing Olympics Damage Its Sponsors’ Reputation?


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The ancient Olympic Games were founded in Greece in BC 776 as a sporting competition between the city states of ancient Greece. The modern Olympic Games games only began in 1859 as a sporting competition between nations. Only 150 athletes from a handful of countries took part. Today it is the pinnacle of sporting prowess. Ober 10,000 athletes from over a hundred countries now compete. And the whole world will be watching.

The current games due to start in 143 days time in Beijing is rapidly turning into a war of words between China and its many critics, over its treatment of Tibet and of its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. China’s insistence that Tibet is an internal matter, in contrast to the hopes of many of the countries that supported China’s bid for the games (partly in the hope that the honour of staging the Olympics would help open it up to the outside world) and its aggresive handling of the current troubles is threatening to derail the goodwill that surrounds the games.

Putting Tibetan politics to one side, if the arguments between China and its many critics get any worse, it may well reflect badly on many of the western corporate sponsors of the games. Household names like Volkswagen, General Electric, Visa and McDonalds. Companies whose large presence in China means they could hadly avoid becoming sponsors. The lighting of the Olympic flame in Greece has already been disrupted by Tibetan sympathisers. The flame being carried through Lhasa, the Tibetan capital is only likely to inflame criticism of China and the inevitable protests further. Are we going to see Tibetan sympathisers picketing your local McDonalds? How would you explain the pickets to your children? Or would you be heading for Burger King instead to avoid those difficult searching questions?

Not suprisingly, western corporate sponsors have been largely silent thus far, rather hoping the troubles will go away. Somehow, I don’t think they are going to. In fact, I think they are going to get a lot worse in the run up to the opening ceremony. The Beijing Olympics have all the makings of a corporate reputation disaster for its western sponsors. But what should they do to manage the fallout? Indeed, what can they do? There are no easy answers.

What do you think? Should western companies be concerned corporate citizens and pull out while the going is good? Or should they stay the course arguing that sport is above politics?

Post a response and get the conversation going?

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamhill/


  1. I see that Business Week’s lead online story aks if Tibet Could Sap Coke’s Olympic Zing . I suspect that the intransigence of the Chinese authorities in the face of their draconian handling of the Tibet crisis will mean that this will not be the last story either. There may come a time when even the biggest of companies must put their larger responsibility to civilised society above the profit motive.

    You read it here at CustomerThink first.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager


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