McDonald’s and Coca-Cola as Olympics Sponsors?

It “was not an easy decision,” confessed Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), of signing on McDonald’s and Coca-Cola as major sponsors of the Olympic Games through 2020. But he was forced to set aside his reservations in light of financial realities.

Such sponsors — 11 in all — provided $957 million in revenue in the four years leading up to the London Olympics. “We decided to go and to have the benefit of their support at grassroots levels,” he told the Financial Times. “The bottom line is that we have to support and to alleviate the needs of… our National Olympic committees [and] international federations. Most international federations are on a lifeline for the Olympic Games and they need the financial support.” But are McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Cadbury’s really the best that the IOC can do?

The editors of The Lancet argue that the “Games should encourage physical activity, promote healthy living, and inspire the next generation to exercise.” The IOC has a responsibility to its brand like any other company or organization, and it makes no sense for junk food and sugared-up sodas, hardly the optimal fuel for body or brain, to be associated with world-class athletic achievement. (Isn’t this, after all, why people were in an uproar after photos of a marijuana-smoking Michael Phelps emerged?) It makes no sense, and yet the power of marketing can make it happen, which is why McDonald’s and Coca-Cola are each paying up to $100 million for access to this market. It allows them to brighten their image while expanding their brand.

Writing for, Malcolm Clark notes how “the sponsors try to sugar-coat their Olympic involvement with ever-grander sports and exercise schemes that they claim will make children more active.” The companies, however, “cannot disguise one salient fact: no amount of free equipment and sporting initiatives will make unhealthy diets any less unhealthy. This is what makes McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Cadbury’s such unsuitable Olympic sponsors.”

They’re so unsuitable also because many people, including children, really will begin to believe that these companies’ products aren’t so bad for them after all. Consider the fact, for example, that the promotional use of the Olympic mascots Wenlock and Mandeville, designed for the five-to-fifteen-year-old demographic, is restricted to the sponsors. Get them hooked early and you’ll have them for life. As the editors of The Lancet write, it will be hard to erase “the long-term effect of Games-associated junk food advertising on people’s hearts and waistlines — definitely one Olympic legacy the world can do without.”

Alas, as the Financial Times reports, IOC president Rogge said that “the growing financial demands of the Olympics were making it harder for the movement to hold on to its long-cherished values, which include taking care of one’s health.” In other words, the Olympics can no longer be counted on to stand for the very values that have defined it up until now. After health, what next?

Related Stories:

Should the Olympics Promote Junk Food?

4 Reasons To Avoid The London Olympics

Strapped for Cash, Cities Consider Corporate Sponsorship

Photo Credit: lilivanili


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Aj Ylizaliturri4 years ago

why not?

katarzyna phillips

"They’re so unsuitable also because many people, including children, really will begin to believe that these companies’ products aren’t so bad for them after all."

sorry, but i disagree. i READ THE LABEL on products, so if it has more than 5% fat per 100g, i know i can get a better alternative. this is the case too for parents, as it is through parents that many children get access to food and treats as it is in the home. don't have high calorie 'empty' foods and drinks in the home, sugar laden food/drink at home, or over salty stuff in the home either. by limiting the amount of 'bad' foods and replacing them with better 'alternatives', it teaches kids [particularly younger ones] which foods are good; and which ones are treats. also get them to read the labels of items when out shopping and get them involved in the decision making; as well as making food at home.

however, i agree that mcdonalds, coca-cola and cadburys is not the wisest of choices for advertising the olympics, but at the same time, they are multi million £/$ industry GIANTS. how many 'healthy' alternative companies could pour that amount of money into the beggar's basket?

inspector thirtyseven

Angel C , Sorry no Monsanto .... would DOW and BP suffice ? they are sponcers

Michelle Spradley

Angel C: Feel free to step in and replace them. I think the IOC only needed $975 million. I'm not sure about the individual national Olympic committees. That would probably take a few more dollars.

Angel Campbell
Angel Campbell5 years ago

These companies are the worst possible sponsers. Unless Monsanto was a sponser I couldn;t think of any other corporations that would be worse.

Sara Gustavsson
Sara Gustavsson5 years ago

it is only yourself who decides what you eat and drink. Everybody most take responsibility for them self.

federico bortoletto
federico b5 years ago

Grazie delle notizie.

Bernd Friedel-Onasch

Well, if most of you say McDonald's and Coca-Cola is bad for your health and it's up to you if you want to be fat and unhealthy,
then why don't give "Marlboro" another opportunity,
that's a big money company, it's up to you anyway if you want to smoke or not,or?

Tim Raynor
Tim Ra5 years ago

Now that would be funny! Think about it: "Shake Weight", proud sponsor of the 2012 Summer Olympics. =)