Olympics sell its soul

Has anyone noticed that some of the global Olympic sponsors are not the type of companies you would associate with a global sporting event? How can for example Coca-Cola or McDonalds, which are associated with fatty fast foods, be headline sponsors to an event that promotes sport and health?

Now you are probably going to say I am rather naive and that this kind of thing has been happening for years in the world of sport. But for something as global as the Olympics I am surprised how much it repulses me. Don’t get me wrong I understand the need for private support, but the likes of Omega, Acer or GE seem to make more sense as you can associate their brand in some way to the event, or the support they may provide. I can’t believe for example that one of the legacies of the London 2012 games will be the largest McDonald’s restaurant in Europe. We have even added Cadbury, and all their chocolaty goodness, to the list of sponsors for the games.

This along with the extortionate ticket prices, with large quantities being reserved for ‘VIPs’, makes these games more about money than any time before. The Olympics bring some fantastic benefits to London and the country as a whole – I hope that these stay at the forefront of the organisers mind in the lead up to next summer rather than one of greed and a lack of integrity.


  • At least Cadbury’s is a firm rooted in the UK.

    IMO it’s not that important and most people are usually intelligent enough not to buy something just because there’s a big banner with the products name flying overhead.

    I completely take your point but in this time of austerity I for one have no problems with the government sacrificing a few small moral standpoints in order to deliver the 2012 games. It’s not like the adverts for cigarettes or alcohol that use to pervade.

    McDonalds also do healthy food now (even though hardly anybody ever bothers with it) and Coca-Cola is really just a softened up energy drink. I think both are often unfairly demonised when it’s ultimately consumers who make the ultimate choice. Nobody ever seems to object to Lucazade, which is arguably worse.

    Taking this to an extreme, it’s worth remembering that Athletes are not all super-healthy vegetarians. Many of the most physically demanding sports, such as swimming, actually require them to eat a massive amount of calories because their bodies burn so much. If they didn’t then their bodies would eat into the muscle tissue instead of the fatty food.

    • Piers says:

      As always a balanced and considered response! As you could say the ‘healthy’ food is making its way to the likes of McDonalds, but a way to go to fix their perception I am so keen to hold onto.

  • James Turner says:

    You are correct in the assumption that the tittle sponsors, McDonald’s, Coke Adidas and the like have been involved in been main sponsors for many years.
    Whilst in principle the olympics would suffer without the amount of money that these sponsors inject you have to wonder what is the cost. If you look at he terms of the sponsorship a lot of them are about stifling the individuality of the olympics in terms of the host city’s appearance in the media.
    The sponsors have veto over products brought into the stadia and parks including logos on clothing and food.
    However I do concede that the stadia are designated advertising clean by the IOC.. Kit suppliers for instance are only allowed 12cm sq. on the national kit of athletes.
    There is also a wide radius around the venues where the sponsors have veto on any competing advertising, even if the advertising is by a local shop.

    I can not for one minute believe that principle sponsors view the olympics as anything other than a commercial advertising venture. I am certain there must be some real number crunching as to the value returned.

    I am not sure that should be a surprise to any of us.

    I wil say that feedback I received about the olympic village eating halls was that McDonald’s is the best place to eat as it is the only place to get good fresh salad. (dressing is supplied separately)

    As for the above comment about calories I can safely say that no athlete will eat rubbish no matter how many calories they need.

    Comercial sponsorship money permeates every level of nearly every sport. I just hope we can keep the balance of commercial return and philanthropic intention correct.

    For some indication on the lighter/better side of this look at the sponsors of the Paralympics.

    Interestingly the tv rights of the Olympics and Paralympics went to different broadcasters for 2012 (BBC and Cannel 4 respectively) Personally I already find the media coverage distinction between the two is noteworthy and interesting.

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