Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Winter Olympics sponsors lie low as US alleges China human rights abuse

Advertisers are keeping a low profile with less than two weeks to go before the Winter Olympics in Beijing amid criticism over China’s alleged human rights violations. For months, US officials, lawmakers from other Western countries and human rights activists have said China’s treatment of mostly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang amounts to a form of genocide. China has denied the allegations, but the allegations have put longtime sponsors in a bind, causing many to remain silent. Still, they’ve largely kept their advertising commitments in China itself, continuing to run spots in that all-important consumer market. Visa, which had a marketing blitz and 100-day countdown on Twitter to the torch lighting for the last Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, has stayed relatively quiet this time around. The credit card giant and longtime Olympic sponsor hasn’t issued any statements, nor has it tweeted about the Games. The company did not return requests for comment. Companies like Walmart, Intel, Adidas and H&M that have spoken out about human rights concerns have faced the wrath of China. For instance, last month, the Chinese government accused Walmart of “stupidity” and “shortsightedness” after its subsidiary Sam’s Club allegedly pulled products sourced from Xinjiang, threatening “bad consequences” for the retail giant as a result. “Sponsors are trying to weather the storm,” Rick Burton, who was chief marketing officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, told the Wall Street Journal. The companies have inked massive sponsorship deals and risk missing global marketing opportunities for their businesses in China, Burton added. This year, many big sponsors are trying to toe the line as the Games approach. Procter & Gamble, home of brands like Gillette, Olay, Pampers and Tide, has been tight-lipped on its views in the weeks following the Biden administration’s decision to mount a diplomatic boycott of the Games. In an interview with the Journal, P&G finance chief Andre Schulten said the company’s messaging focuses on the athletes and it leaves marketing decisions around China and the Olympics up to individual market leaders. “Every brand has their own context, there really is no global approach. It’s done tactically and individually by market,” he said. In China, “the focus is on the customer.” Coke is running an Olympic advertising campaign this year only in China, the company said without explaining the decision. It has spoken out against human rights violations in other parts of the world, such as Qatar ahead of another competition it sponsors, soccer’s World Cup, set to be held in that country later this year. Some sponsors are ignoring the controversy, such as Swiss watchmaker Omega, the official timekeeper of the Games. The company has launched a new watch celebrating the Beijing Olympics, a move it makes for most Games. Omega said it is committed to supporting Olympic sports and doesn’t “get involved in certain political issues.” The lack of a big marketing blitz ahead of the sporting event is out of the ordinary for the 13 top Olympic sponsors. The International Olympic Committee received more than $1 billion from such top-tier sponsors for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and the Rio 2016 Summer Games, combined, according to the latest IOC data. In turn, sponsors get to use official Olympic logos, such as the iconic interlaced rings, for advertisements. The IOC told the Journal it recognizes and upholds human rights, but it takes no position on the political structure, social circumstances or human-rights standards in the host country. The IOC “must remain neutral on all global political issues,” the committee said.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like


Activist investor Starboard Value has purchased a 6.5% stake in web services firm GoDaddy worth about $800 million, according to a regulatory filing with...


Contact The Author Female employees at CNN are furious that chief spokesperson Allison Gollust is keeping her job after lying about her affair with...


North Korean hackers managed to steal a fortune in cryptocurrency in 2021, according to the results of a recent study. Cybercriminals based in North...


Katie Couric dished on Jeff Zucker and Allison Gollust’s relationship in her tell-all memoir last fall, saying it struck staffers as “super strange” when...

Business Tribune