The Winter Olympics, which begin next month, are a tremendous marketing opportunity for sponsors and a showcase for corporations.
Beijing 2022, on the other hand, is causing major headaches for the Games’ 13 official corporate partners.
Many people are opting to remain silent in the midst of a diplomatic crisis between the United States and China.
The United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada are among the countries boycotting the Games diplomatically, though their athletes will still compete.
China has been chastised by those nations for alleged human rights breaches against its minority Uyghur population, as well as its activities in Tibet and Hong Kong.
According to observers, there has been a significant drop in tweets about the Olympics from global sponsors compared to last year’s Summer Games in Tokyo.
The BBC also reached out to all 13 Olympic partners for comment on China’s alleged human rights violations. None of them directly addressed the charges.
Rick Burton, the former top marketing officer for the US Olympic Committee at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, told the BBC that global corporations were “walking a tightrope.”
“I don’t think that any of them as global brands can afford, or are willing, to insult the Chinese government,” he says.
Airbnb, Alibaba, Allianz, Atos, Bridgestone, Coca-Cola, Intel, Omega, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, Toyota, and Visa are the Olympics’ official global partners. They were all global partners for Tokyo 2020, with the exception of Allianz.
Many partners pushed social media content in the run-up to the Olympics in Japan, hyping up the Games.
For example, in the months leading up to the Games, French IT firm Atos tweeted dozens of times, and would routinely upload content commemorating the months, weeks, and days until the Games began.
It also released movies demonstrating how its technology was used at the Olympics.
Other large foreign partners tweeted about sponsored athletes and Olympic-related technologies on a frequent basis.
Those same accounts, on the other hand, rarely mention Beijing 2022, which runs from February 4 to February 20.
“Visa, Coca-Cola, and others have kept an unusually low marketing profile,” says Diana Choyleva, chief economist at Enodo Economics.
She claims that the boycott by Washington is to blame.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) told the BBC that its global partners are long-term and do not decide where the Games will be held.
“The commercial partners are not involved in the selection of Olympic and Paralympic hosts,” it said.
However, the decision to award the Games to China has created a conundrum for Olympic partners.
The watchmaker Omega wanted to make it clear to the BBC that they are sponsors of the Olympics, not the Games’ venue.
“We firstly wish to highlight that Omega is not a sponsor of Beijing 2022,” a spokesperson for the company said, adding it is the “official timekeeper and data handler of the Olympic Games”.
That hasn’t stopped it from using social media to commemorate previous Olympics, far more so than in Beijing 2022.
At the Beijing Olympics, there was a snow machine.
The issue is straightforward, and it will have been discussed in PR meetings in all of these corporations’ boardrooms.
The West will criticize you if you are extremely enthusiastic about the Games without mentioning accusations of human rights violations in China.
Any criticism of the Chinese government, on the other hand, may jeopardize economic opportunities in the country.
“We do not comment on anything outside of our function as the international IT partner of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Atos told the BBC.
Burton believes that firms have remained silent for a variety of reasons, including political considerations, but that there are also other variables at play.
“A lot of these sponsors spent a lot of money in Tokyo just a few months ago, so there’s not only a bit of fatigue, but I think there are limitations on their budgets,” he says.
“The Winter Games have just traditionally never been as big as the Summer Games.”
(Adapted from BBC.com)