Is Something Missing In Olympic Advertising?

The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is upon us, and the marketing fervor among American brands is officially on. Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, GE and Visa are just a handful of companies using the backdrop of Beijing to tout their brands, hoping to reach the millions of eyes that will be on Olympic Stadium tonight. But even within all the Olympic marketing buzz leading up the games, one thing seemed notably absent: corporate cause and responsibility messages directed toward American consumers. Corporate cause communications in China, especially in response to the Sichuan Earthquake, are widespread (as Cone VP Kristian Darigan observed during a month spent researching there this summer), but we have yet to see any notable corporate cause- or CR-related communications surrounding the games here in the United States. 

Amidst the debate and criticism of American corporate sponsors’ involvement with the Olympic games, in light of ongoing allegations of environmental and human rights abuses by China, it is peculiar that brands with an established cause or CR presence would not use this forum to communicate their commitments to pressing social and environmental issues, at least to their American consumers.  Perhaps these companies view their sponsorship of the Olympics as the embodiment of their support of a “cause.”  Perhaps, due to the complex terrain of corporate responsibility in relationship to China, they have held back.  Or perhaps, we just haven’t seen what is to come (as a point of comparison, five cause-related spots played during this year’s Super Bowl).  As the world’s eyes are on Beijing, we’ll be watching, with bated breath, for corporate cause and CR-related messages.  With the motto “One World, One Dream,” there hardly seems a more inspired forum for companies to communicate their commitment to social and environmental issues than the international movement that is the Olympic Games.


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