It can be argued that sport plays one of the most important roles in everyday life of people not only in the United States but also around the world. It can vary between participants, spectators and supporters. Today, the sport industry is one of the mainstreams for great entertainment, occupation and lifestyle. As sports thrive in the world, most of the profits wouldn’t be possible without the marketing, promotions and advertisements. Every two years the Olympics come around and businesses all over the world want to be apart with the large profits associated with sponsorships of the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games are the most watched sporting event that creates profitable global media events.
As the 2012 London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) gets started with top sponsorship rights, many ethical issues arise. The Olympics are to stand for fitness and health, but many of the top sponsors like Coca-Cola are hand in hand with obesity and health related issues in the world today. There is an ethical battle between what the Olympics stand for and how the games will actually sustain themselves financially. Protecting the Olympic image and the value of sponsorship for the Olympic partners are major concerns for the IOC (BBC News 2008). When survival of the Olympic Games is at stake, does it really matter who sponsors the Olympic Games? Can there really be a scope for ethics and appropriate sponsorship? The 2012 London Olympics cost roughly around $ 15 billion dollars (BBC News 2006), how do you run the Olympics when it costs that much? Before I answer this question I will layout all the facts for the pro and con side of each argument.
The ethical dilemma arises when the Olympics have a wealthy sponsor, and with their main ingredients in Coca-Cola, contradicting the Olympics main goal and health promotion worldwide. “The IOC and the WHO (World Health Organization) are committed to encouraging the development of sport and physical education so that they can become an integral part of a lifestyle which protects and promotes health and prevents illness and infirmity” IOC (2000) Dick Pound, Vice President of the IOC says” Take away sponsorship and commercialism from Olympic Sport and what is left? A large, sophisticated, finely-tuned engine developed over 100 years with no fuel” The facts that support Coca-Cola being an ethical partner are: It takes large amounts of money to run the Olympics and without top corporations with money it would be almost impossible to succeed, Coca-Cola has a stronger image that targets youth and sustainability by reaching out to teens and creating a zero waste game.
The Zero Waste Game is “Creating packages for recycling and tailoring them to meet local social economic and environmental needs. Our aluminum recycling efforts have reduced the use of aluminum and steel packaging by 33% globally, while our glass and plastic recycling designs have resulted in the use of fewer materials and less waste. Sponsors view participation in the Olympic Games as a way to raise profit and awareness of their brand. Coca-Cola is working on creating a social value; hence the “Zero Waste Games” (Recycle Olympics 2012) its critics also seem to forget that Coca-Cola produces many increasingly popular sugar-free drinks, too. Diet Coke is now the No.2 selling soft drink in the US. Coca-Cola is also the 2nd most recognized sponsor for the Olympic Games and 1st among teens. Coca-Cola has raised sponsorship awareness among youth by 37% in 12 months (O’Reilly 2011).
Without sponsorship there would be no Olympic Games because Sponsorship income now accounts for 40% of the International Olympics Committee’s (IOC) total revenue. The highest tier of sponsors, The Olympic Partners (TOP), comprises a number of major brands including McDonald’s, Samsung and Coca-Cola Gillis (2007). The facts that go against Coca-Cola being an ethical partner are: Coca-Colas ingredients are the main factors in obesity and major health issues today, The Olympics stand for worldwide health promotion which Coca-Cola is clearly not in line with based on their main ingredients. “It’s very sad that an event that celebrates the very best of athletic achievements should be sponsored by companies contributing to the obesity problem and unhealthy habits,” said Terence Stephenson, a spokesman for the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges.
It’s also sending a wrong message to young adults today about obesity. Coca-Cola is throwing tons of cash at the Games in the hope we’ll drink their product and not the competitors (which are both unhealthy) (Gillis 2007). Besides the health issues on why Coca-Cola is an unethical partner there has been many allegations about the company being targeted by campaigners following an investigation by the Ecologist which revealed horrible living conditions and low pay for African immigrants growing oranges in Italy.
Many of the workers are processing the oranges into juices or concentrates used in soft drinks of Coca-Cola. In Cavanaugh’s Flow Chart for ethical decision making under utility I would say the greatest good for the greatest number of people overall dominates my decision. Yes, it is ethical for LOCOG to partner with Coca-Cola because the Olympic Games are the biggest sporting event in the entire world. Without this event many of people would be upset and would ultimately affect the greatest amount of people. When the Olympics impact the entire world it’s not just one country you are letting down, it’s the whole world. Never in any type of sport setting does a game bring entire countries together to compete with the rest of the world. Based on the facts listed above the overriding factor is that without top sponsorships the greatest game for the world to see would not happen.
The facts are that the Olympic Games do not happen without money from sponsorships. The second step to the theory is Rights, “They enable individuals to pursue their own interests and they impose correlative prohibitions and/or requirements on others.”(Cavanagh, p. 142). Coca-Cola has the right to personal freedom. The product they sell is not a surprise and the Olympics know what they stand for and what products they produce. Nowhere does it say that because you are not a “healthy” product you cannot sponsor the Olympic Games. They also have the right of autonomy. The Olympics can choose who they want and so can the people. Just because Coca-Cola is a top sponsor doesn’t mean that people are forced to buy the products. So once again I say yes, it is ethical for LOCOG to partner with Coca-Cola because of the right to personal freedom and the right of autonomy.
The third view of ethics is the “justice” approach. This approach is based around treating each member of the organization in the same manner. The major concern is to enforce rules in a fair and impartial manner. Fair compensation supports Coca-Cola being an ethical partner because it holds individuals and organizations involved in the Olympic Sponsorship responsible for setting the same standard for each sponsor. Coca-Cola and Visa are not even in the same category but are both top sponsors. When it boils down to it, what is more important?
Are the Olympic Games transforming into the biggest financial opportunity for sponsors to show their products through global media exposure instead of being the biggest celebration of the world? The reality is that sponsorship has become a necessary part of the Olympic Games. Olympic Sponsors significantly support the Olympic Movement and the continued success of the Olympic Games. The question that’s answered is whether the Olympic Games would be operational without the financial help of corporate sponsors like Coca-Cola. The answer is that the Games would not be operational, since the cost of the Games has increases each year bettering itself every Olympic Game.
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July 7, 2012
Chairman of the LOCOG
I have drafted a response to the critics of the Coca-Cola sponsor regarding the ethical concerns of having Coca-Cola as one of the top Olympic sponsors for the 2012 London Olympic Games. The Olympics provide entertainment for the world to come together peacefully in the mutual enjoyment of universal sport. It’s a chance for us to set aside all that we claim makes us different and come together as a family for something less serious, something humane. Coca-Cola has had the longest relationship with the Olympic Games and has been a sponsor since 1928.
Coca-Cola has been dedicated to bringing athletes and the public memorable Olympic Games. I have personally seen the effort Coca-Cola has made in increasing its youth awareness physical activity through events, media outlets, and even a street team. Coca-Cola has also created the Zero Waste Game by creating packages for recycling and tailoring them to meet local social economic and environmental needs throughout the Olympics. It’s not clear that any of Coca-Colas products are necessarily unhealthy. Sugary drinks provide energy. Coca-Cola produces many popular sugar-free drinks too that help support athletes training. Most importantly the Coca-Cola Company shares the Olympic Values, which embody the discovery of one’s abilities, the spirit of competition, the pursuit of excellence, a sense of fair play and the building of a better and more-peaceful world.
When people think of Coca-Cola as a sponsor they might not see what they really contribute to the Olympic Games. Coca- Cola provides financial support to the more than 200 National Olympic Committees around the world. This support includes assisting their