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Scrutiny over McDonalds' and Coca-Cola's Olympic sponsorship is counter-productive

Burger and a Coke - Olympic fodder?
Burger and a Coke - Olympic fodder?


Questions hang over McDonalds' and Coca-Cola's Olympic sponsorships but as Jack Davidson argues, the brands bring a great deal to the party.

In an interview with the Financial Times the president of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, admitted there were question marks over the renewal of Coca-Cola and McDonalds' top tier sponsorship of the Olympic Games.

Rogge implied that the increasing financial demands of hosting the Olympics has forced the committee into accepting sponsorship from brands that some feel aren't totally aligned with the Olympic values.

Coca-Cola and McDonalds have been involved with the Olympics since 1928 and 1976 respectively. Both have contributed a huge amount of money to the games and do a great job of activating their sponsorships. Considering they have both recently signed long extensions of their contracts and the Olympics are just days away it was rather irresponsible of Jaques Rogge to be in any way negative about such committed Olympic sponsors. Especially because it has also brought negativity to the IOC and the Olympic Games at a crucial period.

McDonalds and Coca-Cola are not the only sponsors of the event that health campaigners might have an issue with. Heineken and Cadbury are also Olympic partners but seem to attract less negative publicity because they are lower-tier sponsors.

In fact many sporting events attract sponsors from the food and drink market. The recent outrage around the ruling that McDonald’s is the only vendor permitted to serve chips also serves as a case in point – at many public events including sports and music festivals you will often find only one brand of beer available, and there is never public outcry over ‘pouring rights’.

Through effective sponsorship activation the association of such brands could be used to reinforce the message that occasionally consuming these products is fine in moderation, especially when you exercise regularly. Banning brands that create burgers, chocolate, alcohol and soft drinks from sponsoring sporting events could actually have a negative effect. These brands often use their sponsorship activation to encourage participation in grass roots sports and create an excellent buzz around the games, a great example of this is Cadbury's Spots vs Stripes campaign.

The Olympics will always be an attractive property for all brands so the IOC would be better off taking advantage of its position and encouraging brands to do more to tackle the health issues associated with their products. The IOC could stipulate that for certain brands to be considered as Olympic sponsors they have to commit to increasing participation in sport or integrating more healthy options into their range.

In fact Coca-Cola has said 75 per cent of the drinks it expects to sell at the games will be sugar-free, and considering its portfolio includes Innocent smoothies and juices, the brand offers enough choice to keep even the most stringent health campaigner happy.

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