Companies face unique marketing challenges during Olympics due to human rights concerns

Companies face unique marketing challenges during Olympics due to human rights concerns Companies face unique marketing challenges during Olympics due to human rights concerns

January 31, 20222 min read
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Many companies have used the Olympics as an ideal platform for positioning their brand to worldwide audience. However, with the games being held in a nation facing international criticism over human rights and privacy issues, the 2022 Olympics in Beijing Feb. 4-20 will present challenges in marketing.


Kim Saxton, clinical professor of marketing, said China’s human rights policies present a predicament for Olympic sponsors. While some companies – such as the Coca Cola Co. – have said they won’t advertise at the games, others that do may take a different approach than they have in the past.


“It creates an interesting challenge. There is more airtime available and the controversy is stoked. The athletes deserve the support. In fact, they depend on it. But with the U.S. government not sending a delegate, it creates an air of caution,” Saxton said, adding “the U.S. government has not expressly said that companies cannot advertise.


“There are other issues to consider as well. First, the winter Olympics have been very quiet. It’s quite unusual to have summer and winter Olympics within one year. Many consumers need that bi-annual cadence in order to process information about the Olympics and get excitement up,” she added. “Many Americans right now probably cannot name an athlete in more than one sport. And the games start in about two weeks.


“Traditionally, the Olympics is one of the few places that advertisers can find a critical mass of viewers on TV today. The Super Bowl, the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup are the largest TV audiences. So, advertisers have to be creative this year. Some will not mention the host city. Some will run ads that don’t mention the Olympics. Some will stay away. Finally, some will move their efforts to PR. They will balance a fine line of promoting their brands and athletes, while not promoting China.”


Saxton can be reached at mksaxton@iupui.edu.




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  • Kim Saxton
    Kim Saxton Clinical Professor of Marketing

    Kim Saxton is a marketing strategy professor who believes marketers should make data-driven decisions to improve their effectiveness.

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