Saturday, January 18, 2014

The perils of sponsorship - the acronyms P&G, NBC, IOC, and LGBT in the ex-CCCP

In normal cases, a sponsorship deal is a win-win situation for the sponsor and for the entity or person being sponsored. That entity/person gets money, and the sponsor gets name recognition. In addition, both parties profit from the mutual association - think Michael Jordan and Nike, for example.

In normal cases.

Sometimes, the sponsor does something embarrassing that reflects poorly on the entity being sponsored. Remember Enron Field?

But sometimes it's the other way around.

I went to the garage this morning to grab a popular cleaning product, and I happened to notice that the company that produces that product - Procter & Gamble - is an official Olympic sponsor.

So, naturally, what was the first thing that popped into my mind?

"Boy, Procter & Gamble doesn't like the gay people, I guess."

Obviously, this is unfair to Procter & Gamble, and (although this can be debated) may also be unfair to the Olympic movement itself.

P&G certainly isn't responsible for Russia's stance on "gay propaganda" or whatever; Procter & Gamble enjoys a positive relationship in the LGBT community. At the same time, however, its airing of ads in Russia has resulted in controversy within that same community.

The International Olympic Committee may not get off so easily. While the legislation in question was passed after Sochi was selected as the Olympic site, there are people who question whether the IOC's pursuit of the almighty dollar is blinding them to everything else.

Note that I said almighty dollar, not almighty ruble. The International Olympic Committee's funding comes primarily from broadcast rights, and roughly half of the broadcast revenue comes from one country - the United States, where NBC paid $1.2 billion to cover the 2012 London Olympics.

As you may know, I do not care for the way in which NBC broadcasts the Olympics. (Neither does Dave Barry.) But next month, there's going to be a huge new undercurrent to NBC's coverage of the Sochi Olympics. What will Bob Costas say about LGBT rights? What will he say about demonstrations? What is he not saying? Why not?

Now one can debate whether NBC's Olympic coverage should solely focus on sport, or whether it should acknowledge the surrounding issues. But however you feel about this, you have to acknowledge that the coverage is there.

And somewhere in Cincinnati, a Proctor & Gamble marketing executive is burying his or her head in his or her hands.

P.S. regarding the title - yes, the CCCP isn't Russia. But after all, we're talking about Putin here.
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