Olympic Sized Problems with Sochi

With the 2014 Olympic Games less than a month away, there is no shortage of controversy and fear surrounding the event. The familiar Official Olympic Partners McDonalds, Coca Cola, Visa, and P&G have all put forth nearly $100,000,000 each to be a marquis partner. A recurring issue for these Olympics is the ambush marketing of non-official partners - early reports show 2/3 of the most associated brands with the Olympics, are in fact not partners at all. Ambush marketing is just one of many issues these organizations will need to monitor closely; human rights conflicts as well as terrorism bombings within a few hundred kilometers of Sochi have been stealing headlines around the world.

Human Rights Conflicts

Are the Olympic partners ready for the potential backlash from the LGBT community and their supporters? There are countless websites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts dedicated to the bashing and protesting of any and all companies associated with the event.

The large worldwide viewership and condensed activation period make the Olympics a dream for any marketing team. This is why you will not likely see any major sponsor back out of the games or even decrease their advertising/activation footprint, especially companies involved with the event for decades. The key for these brands is to address the issue head on rather than giving generic statements such as Adecco’s response to Buzzfeed when asked their opinion on the issue: “We’re closely monitoring these developments, but I’m afraid we cannot offer a comment at this stage.” (Visit http://ow.ly/smHMV for full article). Despite this, there are a couple of marquis sponsors that have made an effort to show their concern and feelings towards the issue. Coca Cola released a statement on it’s website on 12/10/13, stating their support for the LGBT community and noting their HR policies regarding inclusion. (Visithttp://ow.ly/smJp6 for full statement) It will be imperative for these companies to stand up and prove to the world that they support all individual’s choices and lifestyles, but also support the positive impact sport can have on the world.

Athlete and Patron Safety

If the human rights issues weren’t enough, there is also a war occurring north of Sochi which resulted in 2 suicide bombings responsible for 34 deaths and hundreds injured in late December. The Extremist Caucasus Emirate Group has allegedly even called for attacks on the Sochi Games. The Russia Federal Security Bureau will be ramping up security with over 100,000 guards, 40,000 policemen and 30,000 armed forces in and around Sochi. Spectator, resident, and athlete communications will be under constant surveillance by a computer system called Sorm. This is one case where you will not likely hear complaints regarding invasion of privacy.

Of course this is not the first Olympics filled with controversy, threats, and protests, nor will it be the last with the issues already brewing in Brazil. In the near future, it may become increasingly important for the Olympic Partners to adjust their involvement with the games in creative ways in order to steer clear of the controversies, and align themselves with the true purpose of the games, sport and togetherness.