The Sochi 2014 Olympics have begun. And despite all the political controversy, I believe that the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Olympics was simply stunning. I'm not only talking about the lush fireworks, but also the hundreds of creative people who put their hearts and souls into the design, production and performance.
However, the controversy surrounding the human rights
issues in Russia shouldn’t be ignored, and the Olympics seems to be one of
those special occasions when it’s perhaps necessary and right to make a public statement about protecting
the equality of all people.
companies like Google, AT&T and American Apparel have taken a strong position
against Russian anti-gay legislation, global players like Coca-Cola and McDonalds
are being heavily criticised by some for not speaking out against the law.
But, as Katie
Bayne, President for North America brands at the Coca-Cola North America unit
of the Coca-Cola Company said in an article published in the New York Times, what about the fact that multi-national
brands, such as Coca-Cola, have always been about “inclusion and diversity”?
mentioned companies to some extent have ties with the Olympics, but while
AT&T and American Apparel appear to operate mainly in the US market, most
of Coca-Cola’s and McDonald’s revenue comes from international markets. Perhaps,
taking or not taking a strong stand by these brands might also impact the view
of customers who are very sensitive to the presence of companies heavily sided
in a conversation which is against their own views.
I am not
going to arbitrate any company’s position regarding the Olympics and call it
right or wrong. While I am not in agreement with the politics of the Russian
Government, I do not want to criticize those advertisers who are proving support
for the Sochi athletes. If I start to judge the Olympic sponsors for their
involvement, then should I as viewer even watch the Olympics because I don't
agree with in the current political landscape in Russia?
Olympics has certainly proven to be a difficult arena for brands to find the
right balance between retaining their value, maintaining a positive image in
the eye of the public and advocating support for the athletes. This is probably
why there are just as many supporters and critics for Google and AT&T as
there are for Coca-Cola and McDonalds. As a marketer, I find it most
interesting that Coca-Cola and McDonalds were not fully prepared for the social
media backlash their positions have created. It looks like they simply
underestimated all warning signals from the very beginning.
it’s too early to speculate over what particular brand will be on the ‘winning
side’ in the end. But what is already clear is that for marketing
practitioners, this Olympics case adds another layer to the role of marketers;
greater than ever before, today’s marketer is dealing with not just with unhappy
customers, but also with serious social issues.
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School