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2022 Shaping Up as Unique Year for Olympic and FIFA World Cup Marketing

It is one month until the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Winter Games. Yet a scan of the digital presence of the five U.S.-based global IOC sponsors might lead you to believe the Games weren’t even happening.


No mentions of the Games appear on the website home pages nor in any other prominent digital content produced by Airbnb, Coca-Cola, Intel, Procter & Gamble and Visa. That is unprecedented for TOP sponsors who invest hundreds of millions of dollars each into their partnerships.


What’s more, is that a similar situation is likely to play out in advance of this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar.


Contrast this silence to the activation build-up that was the norm for these global events just four years ago—the release of advertising and digital content plans, announcements of retail promotions, sponsored athletes, etc.


Here’s Coca-Cola chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent in an earnings call just before the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010:


“Our plans include engaging consumers in a way that only Coca-Cola can: through our longstanding partnerships with the world’s most iconic global sporting events, both occurring this year. First, for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, we launched a 12-month brand activation plan in Canada. We also launched a widespread program across 11 countries that include the Olympic torch relay, consumer as well as customer events. In addition, our ‘Open the Games’ digital experience has been fully activated in the United States as well as Canada and in six European nations. In addition…our FIFA 2010 activation will be our most comprehensive campaign ever. It will include global commercials, online programs, commemorative packaging, and a 225-day World Cup trophy tour touching 86 countries.”


Clearly, geopolitics related to China and Qatar, as well as the ongoing COVID crisis, are significant reasons why we are hearing nothing but crickets from these global marketers. We can expect enthusiasm from sponsors to markedly improve when the Olympics and World Cup return to Europe and North America in coming years.


The current situation should signal to the IOC and FIFA that their choice of host cities—a difficult balancing act to be sure—has the potential to damage the Olympic and World Cup brands and dramatically curtail partner activation that is critical to building and maintaining consumer support.


The digital and social channels of Coke, P&G and the other companies—while absent of Olympic and World Cup excitement—are replete with content promoting sustainability, commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion, and many other aspects of corporate social responsibility, culture and values.


Given those priorities and their ever-increasing importance to new generations of consumers, 2022 represents a massive missed opportunity to use the platform of global events as in years past to showcase environmental and technology innovation that can positively impact the planet and celebrate and connect humanity through shared passion for athletic competition and achievement.

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