10 facts about The Olympics & Junk Food Sponsors
The London Olympics start today (Wednesday 25th July 2012) with the women’s football kicking off in Cardiff. There has been much talk about the sponsors involved in the Olympics – particularly the junk food sponsors – McDonalds, Coca-cola and Cadbury. Here are some factoids that you may enjoy:
1) The major part of funding comes from broadcasting, not sponsors
Between 2005-2008, $5,450 million was raised for the Olympic Games (the majority goes to the summer games, but each four year funding period also covers the winter games.) This broke down as follows:
- Broadcasting ($2,570m – 47%);
- The Olympic Partner Programme ($866m – 16%);
- Domestic sponsorship ($1,555m – 29%);
- Ticketing ($274m – 5%);
- Licensing ($185,000 – 3%). (Ref 1)
2) There are nine official Olympic Partners
There are currently nine TOP organisations – as The Olympic Partners are known. These are Coca-cola (non-alcoholic beverages), Acer (computing technology equipment), Atos Origin (information technology), GE (infrastructure & healthcare products & services), McDonalds (retail food services), Omega (timing & scoring), Panasonic (audio/TV/video equipment), Samsung (wireless communications) and VISA (consumer payment systems).
I can understand that the games need timing and technology experts but they simply do not need junk food sponsors.
3) McDonald’s accounts for less than 2% of the revenue – the Olympics absolutely can go ahead without them
McDonald’s announced in January 2012 that it would continue its sponsorship through 2020, a deal estimated at about $100 million per four years, or for every pair (winter and summer) of Olympic Games. (Ref 2). This amounts to less than 2% of the overall revenue – when Lord Coe says that the games are not viable without the sponsors, he does not need to include McDonalds.
McDonald’s will build its largest location ever for the 2012 Olympics – a 30,000 sq m,two-story building capable of seating 1,500 customers – in the Olympic Park.
4) Coca-Cola sponsors the Olympics “to build brand awareness”
Coca-Cola is “proud to be the longest continuous corporate partner of the Olympic Games” – an involvement that dates back to the Amsterdam games of 1928 and has just been extended to 2020 “extending this extraordinary relationship to nearly a full century”, in the company’s own words. Coca-Cola’s web page on the Olympics proudly states: “As an organization, 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.” (Ref 3)
No mention of the “nearly 70 different beverage products”. Strangely silent on the 140 calories, 39 grams of sugar and 34 milligrams of caffeine per 355 millilitres of Coca-Cola. No mention of the ingredients list, with the empty calories: carbonated water; high fructose corn syrup; caramel color; phosphoric acid; natural flavours and caffeine. The marketing people must know that they need to promote the company and not the product that it makes when the web site nutritional information needs to say what the product is not, rather than what it is: “Not a significant source of fat calories, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron”.
Coca-Cola asks and answers the following question on its web site: Why does Coca-Cola sponsor the Olympics? “We are a business, and so part of the reason for our sponsorship is to build awareness for our brands …” (Ref 4)
5) Cadbury is a domestic sponsor – no doubt keen to have the halo effect of having junk associated with sporting excellence
Cadbury is a relative newcomer, having sponsored the Sydney Olympics, in 2000, and the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, in 2002, and Melbourne, in 2006. They are a London 2012 Olympic Supporter, rather than part of TOP programme.
Their announcement that they were going to sponsor the 2012 Olympics was criticised by the National Obesity Forum. Board member, Tam Fry, was quoted as saying “I would be very concerned that it is encouraging children to eat chocolate because it is all part of the promotion of unhealthy food to children.” Cadbury’s response was the one that we commonly hear: “Treats can be consumed responsibly – the key is how to balance consumption of treats and physical activity.” (Ref 5) I.e. processed food is part of a balanced healthy diet. Cadbury have the ‘eatwell’ plate on their side in this respect.
Rebecca Adlington is an “Athlete ambassador” for Cadbury (Ref 6)
“As part of our London 2012 sponsorship programme Cadbury is engaging with six UK athletes, Cadbury Athlete Ambassadors, as a means of promoting the brand’s involvement in London 2012 and our relationship with fantastic hopefuls. This helps the athletes financially and gives them a platform and profile, showing their human face and fun side.”
Speedo, British Gas & Cadbury are Rebecca Adlington’s three sponsors. (Ref 7)
6) Global swimming Gold medallists promote McDonalds
Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal, at the Beijing Olympics, on 16 August 2008. Two days later he was at the McDonald’s, just 20 minutes away from the Water Cube, for a photo shoot. Rebecca Adlington won two gold medals in the same Water Cube, also shattering world records. She was asked in her post win interview how she planned to celebrate. “’I’m going to go to McDonald’s,’ she told The Independent on Sunday with a sheepish grin. ‘After all this hard work, and watching what I eat, I just fancy a burger and some chips.’” (Ref 8)
Rebecca Adlington should be an inspiration for our next generation, not a sponsor’s dream.
7) Lord Coe defends the sponsors
And, as we heard in radio coverage last week, Coe is prepared to go as far as saying that Pepsi T Shirts won’t be welcome at the Olympic games because we need to keep Coca-Cola happy. This led to comments that he had confused sponsorship with censorship.
In the programme Who made me Fat?, (Ref 9) Rebecca Wilcox wrote to Lord Sebastian Coe, chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, about the association of McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Cadbury with the 2012 games. Wilcox had two requests for interviews rejected, but she did receive a letter saying: “At the London 2012 games there will be a wide range of food and drink options available including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Cadbury products. These companies have a great heritage in supporting the Olympic movement and in promoting balanced active lifestyles. We are proud to be working with them to deliver a successful Olympic Games… Put simply, without commercial partners, the Games would not happen.”
The games do need a time keeper (Omega) and technology and communication partners but the games absolutely could go ahead without fries and cola.
From point (1), the total revenue between 2005-2008 was $5,450 million. McDonald’s contribution is less than 2% of that. The Games can go ahead without them.
8) The Games don’t produce spikes in activity
It is argued that the Games will encourage a legacy of people taking up sport. I have not seen any graphs of physical activity showing spikes at the time of the Olympics – nor an upwards overall trend since the games began. (The original Greek games ran from 8thC BC to 4th C AD. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was founded in 1894 – first games held 1896). It is more likely that we will be watching the games from our sofa than not watching them and being active instead. (The Games run from 27 July to 12 August).
The British Sports Minister admitted this week that the 50 year old couch potato is not going to leap out of their armchair when they see Usain Bolt.
9) At the current rate, is will take Sport England 32 years to hit the Olympic target
The “One Million Target” – Sport England is tasked with getting one million more people regularly taking part in sport (one measure is participation 3 x a week) by 2013.
After a survey between October 2010 and 2011, Sport England announced that “Across the country 6.927 million people are now taking part three times a week, that’s 111,800 more than in 2007/08… 14.759 million adults are playing sport at least once a week.” (Ref 10)
At a rate of progression of 111,800 in 4 years, that’s 537 conversions a week – it will take nearly 32 years (from 2011) to hit the 1 million target. The Independent recently did an article indicating that progress had “flatlined” since the 2011 report. (Ref 11) (This survey – 2007/8 – also recorded a fall in the number of young people 16-19 playing sport which was described as “of real concern”).
10) And finally…
… Some extra factoids:
* Beijing (2008) was broadcast to 220 countries (Ref 1)
* Athens (2004) had 34.4 billion viewer hours (Ref 1)
* 14 million meals will be served during the games across 40 different locations covering London, the South & the South East. (Ref 12)
* The only branded ‘food’ products available at London 2012 will be those provided by sponsors – McDonalds, Coca-cola, Cadbury, Nature Valley and Heineken.
* There will be some great British food at The Games – if you avoid the branded products. A sample menu is below – UK oats, Yorkshire butter, British cheese, tuna, hog roast – there are some excellent options:
SAMPLE SPECTATOR MENU
Porridge and maple syrup, made with UK oats and milk – £2.20
Toasted tea cakes, with Yorkshire butter – £2.10
Carrot and cucumber sticks with red pesto hummus – £2.50
6 Jerk Red Tractor assured chicken wings – £3.50
Red Leicester British cheese with British apple chutney and Farm assured lettuce on Oxfordshire bread – £3.80
Jacket potato with Dingley Dell bacon and Freedom Foods chicken in a herb mayonnaise, served with roquete and watercress salad – £5.80
Pole and line caught tuna and sweet potato British salad – £5.90
Freshly carved Dingley Dell hog roasted Red Tractor pork, served in Oxfordshire cross hatched bread roll with mixed leaf salad and assorted accompaniments – £6.50
Grilled Red Tractor chicken burrito – £6.50
Farm assured Scotch Beef with Long Clawson Stilton Pie, Irish mashed potato with Red Tractor Cream and British butter and onion gravy – £8.00
If you are lucky enough to have tickets for The Games enjoy the British traditional foods on offer and steer well clear of the 1,500 seater McDonalds!
 The Oxford English Dictionary defines “sheepish” as “embarrassed through shame”. I hope that Adlington was sheepish.
Ref 1: http://www.olympic.org/Documents/fact_file_2010.pdf ; “Olympic Marketing Fact file” 2010
Ref 2: http://money.msn.com/top-stocks/post.aspx?post=81ca9d06-d9ed-4942-b41f-f699d5122e5e
Ref 3: http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/heritage/olympicgames.html
Ref 5: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/cadbury-to-sponsor-london-2012-olympics-967688.html
Ref 6: http://www.cadbury.co.uk/london2012/athletes/Pages/athletes.aspx
Ref 7: http://www.rebeccaadlington.co.uk/sponsors.aspx
Ref 8: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/olympics/golden-girl-just-wants-a-burger-with-chips-899766.html
Ref 9: Rebecca Wilcox, UK BBC 3, Who made me fat?, (30 October 2009). Repeated on BBC 1 (1 March 2010).
Ref 10: http://www.sportengland.org/media_centre/press_releases/sports_participation_figures.aspx
Ref 11: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/olympics/olympics-fail-to-involve-more-people-in-sport-7791484.html
Ref 12: http://britishfood.about.com/od/introtobritishfood/a/Food-Facts-London-Olympic-Games-2012.htm