William Moss on Olympic opportunities and risks

Imagethief : Did the “Genocide Olympics” influence China?

There is a reason I read William Moss — aka The ImageThief — as closely as I do, and that is his honest appraisal of the way things are in China for marketers and communications professionals. As I am deeply involved in my company’s Olympic plans, and have tactic responsibility for our online brand and reputation, I take this seriously:

“… remember that the modern Olympics exists specifically as a propaganda vehicle (and here I include marketing as a kind of propaganda). The IOC may call it a “movement”, evoking images of grass roots participation and noble sporting ideals, but that is propaganda itself, designed to draw a graceful fig leaf over the reality that the Olympics is a vast business venture –reportedly US$4 billion in revenue over its previous quadrennial cycle– driven by sponsorships and advertising. Sponsors take the messaging opportunity seriously, as well they should considering what they invest.”China, hungry to be seen anew as a great power, had its own agenda in mind with the Olympics. Unfortunately for China, all the debate and controversy that swirls around its human rights, environmental and geopolitical issues is being dragged along in the Olympic slipstream. People have China axes to grind, and that beautiful Olympic fulcrum is too enticing to pass up. The 2008 Olympics was politicized from the moment it was awarded to Beijing, and will be more contentious than any games in modern memory. That’s a big deal considering the Olympics’ propaganda-splattered pedigree. In the PR industry we refer to the 2008 Olympics as “issues rich”, which is a polite way of saying, “watch this space for crisis”.”

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “William Moss on Olympic opportunities and risks”

  1. David,

    Very interesting post. I agree that the Olympics are a great marketing opportunity, and have been for a very, very long while. Who is doing the marketing, and to what end, seems to be evolving.

    My impression, is that the Olympics were once a Nationalistic marketing opportunity during the 20th century. Countries like Russia, China, the US, Germany, etc had historic dynasties around particular events, and that always seemed to come out in the commentary I remember as a kid, while watching them. It was always a big deal, when an athlete, representing a country that wasn’t historically dominant in a particular event, created an upset. Mary Lou Rhetton spings to mind.

    Increasingly, corporate brands like Nike, Wheaties, Coke, Lenovo, etc are moving into the scene and capitalizing on the Olympics – maybe they always were there, but the focus seems to be shifting more to the sponsoring companies over time, and less on the countries the Athletes come from.

    I wonder if this reflects the changing world ? 100 years ago, people identified with their country and employment was largely within borders. Now, with the advent of global companies and brands, new identies and affiliations are developing. Perhaps in the future, business interests will be more influentional in world policy than individual governments. I think we are already seeing that evidenced.

    Net – marketing around the olympics may reflect an organizational shift in people’s thinking from National identity to brand identity. Who knows, in 30 years, it may be brand logos hung behind the podium instead of country flags. …. “Lenovo takes the gold, Nokia takes silver, and Daimler-Benz takes the bronze…”

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