Apr 24, 2012 at 02:23 PM
written by

The Question They Never Ask About Olympic Sponsorship

The Olympics is a corporate whorefest that has sold out to global greenwashers and sinister branded-Childcatchers forcefeeding our kids burgers, sweets and fizzy pop.

An unintended feature of Locog’s PR campaign is that each date in the ‘Days to Go’ calendar brings with it a news hook allowing the media to give corporate sponsorship a kicking. Some of this is justified, reasoned criticism and essential if sports rights holders are to be held to account. Some of it is just troll baiting.

The ‘Sponsorship is evil’ story line is useful because it resonates with many readers: there is some truth there and it plays to the general feelings of alienation we have toward the blingy end of Big Sport.

But there’s another story that gets far less coverage.

For major rights holders such as Locog, the IOC, Fifa and Bernie Ecclestone, sponsorship money is the cherry on the cake. The media’s money is the cake.

The question newspapers and broadcasters ought to be asking is a lot closer to home. For example, what was it the BBC was doing in Bahrain last weekend?

If they felt so strongly about human rights issues, or for that matter, Dow Chemical’s relationship with the Bhopal disaster, or the role of Coke and McDonald’s in childhood obesity, there is a solution within their own grasp: don’t buy the rights.

Sponsors are there because TV and the newspapers have spent the last two decades over-selling sport (and football in particular) for their own commercial ends.

The Guardian ran two anti-sponsorship pieces over the last two days. Charlie Brooker led the way with a brilliant and very funny column on Olympic sponsorship and The Observer asked if the Games had been greenwashed.

These are perfectly legitimate and important questions. But meanwhile, The Guardian is seeking a sponsor for its own Olympic coverage: the paper’s brand team have been touting its wares around town according to a couple of my sources. The asking price was, initially at least, around the £1million mark.

We all want to breathe the air on the moral high ground. But to live there requires courage, either personal or financial. Sponsors rarely show it when asked the difficult question.

But the media is never even asked the question.

Richard Gillis writes for The Wall Street Journal in London, blogs at www.unofficialpartner.co.uk and allows us to publish posts here, when the subject fits. Follow him on Twitter: @RichardGillis1.

photo credit