The Beijing Winter Olympics is about to be “collectively silent” by sponsors under the wrestling between China and the United States

The Olympics are often a great opportunity for major global brands to market their products and services to a wide audience around the world. Taking the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea as an example, the NBC television station in the United States, which has always enjoyed the exclusive broadcasting rights of the Olympic Games, spent more than 920 million US dollars (about 7.163 billion Hong Kong dollars) on TV advertising in the United States.

2018 Winter Olympics fever | Italy by Run

For the last Winter Olympics, Visa had accelerated its Olympic marketing campaign months earlier, such as sharing the 100-day countdown to the torch on Twitter to promote Team Visa athletes it liked and promote their participation in the Games. The wearable payment device used in the event; P&G released the “positive energy” film “Love over Bias” during the same period; and Coca-Cola also launched many large-scale advertising campaigns.

Are you afraid that both sides are not happy?
However, all of these are still missing until the Beijing Winter Olympics are being held today. For example, Visa, the credit card giant and longtime Olympic sponsor, did not tweet any news about the Beijing Winter Olympics this year, nor did it issue any press releases. Andre Schulten, P&G’s chief financial officer, said the company’s focus this year is on athletes, and the decision to promote and promote is left to its marketing company. He bluntly said: “Each brand has its own background. There is no globally applicable strategy, and strategies and individual treatments need to be made according to the market. In China, our focus is on customers.” Promotional activities are “limited to China”, which means that they will not be hyped in the international market.

China's national sports authority says preparations for Beijing Winter  Olympic Games continue as planned, condemning slanders from 'human rights  groups' - Global Times

Behind the “collective silence” of the sponsors, on the one hand, some officials in the United States, as well as some politicians and human rights organizations in Western countries, have successively made “stances” on human rights in Xinjiang for the Winter Olympics. For example, the United States and Australia have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics. No staff will be present.

Brands are facing pressure from Western politicians to withdraw from Olympic marketing, or to “speak for human rights”. The Biden administration has already decided not to send officials to the Beijing Winter Olympics. Republican Senator Marco Rubio has urged sponsors such as Coca-Cola and Toyota to withdraw all advertising fees for the Winter Olympics. Human Rights Watch also urged sponsors to explain publicly, How they use their influence “to address rights violations in China”. On the other hand, Beijing has denied the Western allegations and criticized the attempts of some countries to politicize the Olympic Games. It has also responded to companies trying to hype up related issues through public opinion, boycotts and buying strikes. Many companies are also well aware that they may suffer financial losses from their stance on China. Among them, last year, fashion giant H&M almost disappeared from the Chinese Internet due to an old statement involving cotton purchases in Xinjiang, and lost about US$74 million (about 576 million Hong Kong dollars) in sales in China in the following three months.

Beijing Winter Olympics will showcase China's strength during pandemic -  CGTN

Of course, these companies are also inevitably subject to political pressure in the West. This has left many Winter Olympics sponsors wondering what to do. Whether it is to do publicity or not, it seems that they want to “offend one party”. “The sponsors are trying to get through this,” said Rick Burton, who was the USOC’s chief marketing officer at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Under such pressure, brands have to try to appease American politicians on the one hand, but also try to avoid angering China, which has become an important source of profit for many multinational companies.

Safest Practices: Focus on Athletes
According to the International Olympic Committee, the organization received more than US$1 billion (about HK$7.786 billion) from major sponsors for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. The IOC reiterated that the organization recognizes and upholds human rights, but does not take any position on the political structure, social environment or human rights standards of the host country, stressing that the organization “must remain neutral on all global political issues”.

Some people in the advertising industry pointed out that some brands are considering not mentioning the host country or city in the current Winter Olympics marketing activities, some plan to broadcast non-Olympic themed advertisements during the Winter Olympics, and some companies turn to public relations companies for assistance in response to the political situation surrounding the marketing campaign. They expect most brands to refrain from making public statements against China for fear of retaliation.

Beijing Winter Olympics: US announces diplomatic boycott | News | DW |  06.12.2021

US advertising agency founder Mark DiMassimo said some of his clients are considering 24/7 generic ads instead of Olympic-themed ads. Jeremy Carey, general manager of sports marketing firm Optimum Sports, said: “For any brand that supports the Winter Olympics, the safest thing to do is to focus on the athletes.”

In the face of pressure from the West and China, some Winter Olympic sponsors have pressed the IOC to inform U.S. politicians that sponsorship fees are used to support athletes at the current Winter Olympics, lest political leaders Publicly attack the sponsors of this Winter Olympics.