Olympic sponsors McDonald's, Adidas and Coca-Cola are media lightning rods

As Locog prepares to mark the '100 days to go' London 2012 Olympics milestone, sponsor brands are starting to feel harsh scrutiny by media and protest groups alike. So why have brands like McDonald's been so shy of marketing the real value their involvement brings?

As sponsorship success stories go, there can be few to touch LOCOG's achievement in raising £2bn to help fund the £9.3bn cost of the London 2012 Olympics.

Call it coincidence, but a rising tide of bad press for Olympic sponsor brands threatens to overshadow this effort, just as
we pass the Games’ ‘100 days to go’ milestone this week.

First came newspaper claims that Adidas Olympic kit is being made in sweatshop conditions.

Then the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges weighed in, calling Olympics sponsorship by McDonald’s and Coca-Cola ‘most unhelpful’ at the launch of its anti-obesity campaign.

The Academy’s point is half-valid: it feels odd for fast food and fizzy drinks to be sponsor­ing the Olympics.

Such brands, set in the context of the Olympics, will always act as lightning rods. But they have the power to deflect some of the criticism, and we await the ads from McDonald’s et al extolling the very real virtues of their multimillion-pound sponsorships.

McDonald's grass roots football sponsorship is proof of the value it adds away from big ticket sports events like the Olympics.

Disappointingly, the latest ad from the official restaurant provider to London 2012, timed for the '100 days' milestone, is a ‘Mascotathon’ Happy Meal promotion.

There are many stirring stories sponsors could tell, not least of how their involvement empowers athletes from the poorest nations to take to sport’s biggest stage.

Perhaps such activity is in the works. But in its absence, media grumbling about Olympics sponsors can only build a head of steam.

Noelle.McElhatton@haymarket.com

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