The World is Watching
Nothing creates a spotlight like an international sporting event. And it’s not just athletes that get caught in the glare but the hosts and sponsors too. For global companies, an event like the World Cup or the Olympics is a unique opportunity to show the world that they are also good global citizens. To get some perspective on this challenge, we asked Interbranders in five cities that will be hosting or have recently hosted one of these events to tell us about some of the successes and failures they’ve seen along the way.
With the rapid emergence in the last decade of Brazil as a world economic power, it seems fitting that the country will host not one but two upcoming global sports events: the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. Major construction works are behind schedule, though, and the government’s attempt to speed things up by relaxing regulations has received heavy criticism in the press. Then in October the Minister of Sports, who had been in charge of preparations, resigned amidst an unfolding kickbacks scandal. With proper planning corporate citizenship might have been a top priority, but in the chaotic scramble to get the minimum required infrastructure and facilities in place, most non-essential considerations have been neglected. Brands involved with the events as sponsors and partners seem to be taking the same last-minute approach. There’s not much being done in terms of building a long-term legacy, and instead the focus appears to be limited to promotions and fun.
Ilana Herzberg, Strategy Consultant, Interbrand São Paulo
For China, the 2008 Summer Olympics was not only a unique platform to showcase its development but a catalyst for corporate citizenship. The three themes of the games established in the original bid, “Green Olympics, High-tech Olympics, People’s Olympics,” gave shape to citizenship efforts, pushing Chinese companies to take more responsibility for sustainable development, environmental protection, technological progress, and public welfare activities. Lenovo, the Chinese PC maker, answered the call by developing innovative computer products and information technology services to meet the specific needs of China’s underserved rural communities. More than three years after the closing ceremonies, Lenovo’s steady expansion into rural markets continues to promote development in local economies, while also spurring the company’s strong business growth.
Simon Meng, Consultant, Interbrand Beijing
Many aspects of corporate citizenship have long been second nature to businesses in Japan, with companies traditionally taking a holistic view of their role in society. Tokyo’s bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, while unsuccessful, offers good insights into the state of corporate citizenship in Japan today. The bid focused on sustainability, with proposals for a “compact” city, renovation and reuse of the 1964 Olympic buildings, and an emphasis on renewable solar power and rainwater usage. The bid also highlighted unity, echoing the achievements of another recent sporting event, the 2002 World Cup co-hosted with Korea. It was a landmark event, pushing Japan toward greater regional cooperation and helping address historic differences while increasing self-confidence among Japanese.
Alex Murray, Senior Consultant, Interbrand Tokyo
The 1988 Seoul Olympics and 2002 World Cup hold a special place in the hearts of Koreans. The 1988 Olympics proved to the world that Korea was ready for the global stage and set the stage for the international expansion of several Korean conglomerates. In 2002, Korea surprised the world by reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup, reminding the Korean people that when we work together, nothing is impossible. These two mega events served as a signal for social change: The Korean people and corporations were now ready to reach out to people in need. The annual donations collected by the Community Chest of Korea (Korea’s largest charity group) increased from $60 million in 2001 to $340 million in 2010. The Hyundai brand, a World Cup sponsor, has also built a strong record for corporate citizenship. Their “Moving the World Together” campaign addresses a wide range of social issues, such as traffic safety, access to education, cancer, and poverty.
Michael Kim, Consultant, Interbrand Seoul
London 2012 Olympic organizers put corporate citizenship on the agenda long before any journalist, environmental group, or blogger. Sustainability has been a watchword from day one, both for its potential to satisfy the rising demands of a global constituency and to provide the opportunity for brands to express themselves more holistically. While many sponsors have yet to take advantage, Coca-Cola has responded with an ambitious sustainability agenda. The company is minimizing waste in its products and maximizing recycling to help organizers achieve their goal of a zero-waste games. Coke has also pledged to be carbon neutral in its Olympic activities and to actively promote health and wellness throughout. They’re doing something right—while some sponsors have so far struggled to make inroads into public consciousness, Coca-Cola is the most recognized Olympic sponsor according to a recent Marketing Week survey.
Max Guttfield, Analyst, Interbrand London