The Olympics are often a golden opportunity for companies to solidify their message and strengthen their brand image on the international stage; but can the sponsors actually damage the Olympic brand itself?
Recently, the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges in London expressed outrage at the fact that McDonalds is the official sponsor for London’s Olympic Park, an area where a colossal McDonalds restaurant will serve fast food to tourists and visitors for the duration of the Summer Games.
As the official sponsor, McDonalds will be the only branded food product allowed in the park. Additionally, Coca-Cola will be the only brand allowed to sell non-alcoholic drinks at the 2012 venue.
While the outrage some express over a fast food sponsor is understandable, is it even feasible for a health food brand to win a sponsorship bidding war? Even though it would make sense for a healthy living or health food brand to sponsor an athletic event, I can’t think of many global brands better positioned to spend hundreds of millions to sponsor the Olympic Games.
McDonalds and Coca-Cola are already established globally; McDonalds has over 33,000 restaurants around the world. Coca-Cola serves over 570 Billion servings each year. [See the Coca-Cola info graphic for more statistics, here]. Who can compete with those numbers? Subway?
Subway could be a possible “healthy” contender for a spot as official Olympic sponsor. According to a March 2011 Wall Street Journal article, “At the end of (2010), Subway had 33,749 restaurants worldwide, compared to McDonald’s 32,737.”
While Subway has recently closed in on McDonalds in terms of the number of stores, they fall short of the revenue that McDonalds generates by a huge margin. In 2010 McDonald’s took in $24 Billion compared to Subway’s $15.2 Billion.
Let’s face it, health food is expensive and the majority of the world can’t afford to buy it. McDonalds offers a value proposition for the majority of the world’s population that is tough to compete with.
According to Forbes, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s spent a combined $850 million to sponsor the Turin and Beijing Olympics. Those are huge numbers, and amazing considering the financial collapse in 2008. Despite the worldwide economic turmoil during that time, paying big bucks for advertising at Beijing was a huge power play to capture the hearts of the Chinese consumer at a crucial period of growth in Asia.
The Olympics are no different than any other sporting event in this day and age in the sense that the mighty dollar rules. While it may be admirable to see health food brands sponsoring the Super Bowl, NBA Championships and the Olympics- the truth is they don’t stand a chance.
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