Why the Olympic Sponsors Should Take Action on Gay Rights

The idea has taken hold that Russia’s human-rights violations, while worthy of condemnation, should not stand in the way of American athletes bringing home the gold.

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But what of the premier corporate partners of the Olympics—some of the biggest American and international companies—that have paid millions for the privilege of associating themselves with the Games? For Sochi, they include Coca-Cola, Atos, Dow, General Electric, McDonald’s, Omega, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, and Visa. Their participation is certainly not required for American athletes to succeed. And compared with the participation of athletes, sponsorship by these corporations would seem to more directly benefit the Russian government.

Generally, corporate sponsors see the Olympic Games as a coveted opportunity to associate their brands with the good feelings generated by the Olympics. As the International Olympic Committee puts it in the section of its Web site devoted to the top ten corporate sponsors, “The Olympic Games are one of the most effective international marketing platforms in the world.” Each sponsor’s deal is different, and the costs are negotiated separately, but according to estimates in the press top sponsorships go for around a hundred million dollars each.

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