The dividing line between amateur and professional sports has gone from being somewhat blurry to being essentially invisible. While most athletes don’t benefit financially from participating in the Olympics, the small number of superstar competitors who garner extraordinary (and I’d say excessive) endorsement deals have skewed our perception to point where the entire event feels essentially like a commercial enterprise.
This perception is compounded by the Olympic sponsorship program. In April, Forbes reported that eleven global sponsors including Coca-Cola and McDonald’s spent a combined $850 million to sponsor the Turin and Beijing Olympics. And, corporations spend far more than the fees alone. “Activating” sponsorships as needed to reach and influence target markets isn’t cheep. According to sponsorship experts IEG, the average company now spends about $1.70 for each $1.00 spent on a sponsorship deal and it’s probably much higher for the Olympics.
I think that a corporation’s ability to derive reputational value from a community investment is directly proportional to the degree to which it’s actions are seen to be genuine and authentic. Are Olympic sponsorships seen to be genuine expressions of a company’s commitment to sport and competition in its purest sense? I don’t think so. Does a corporation’s investment in relevant social issues make a difference to its image in the minds of its stakeholders and to its bottom line? Increasingly the evidence suggested that there is a strong business case to be made for community investment of this kind.