THE BIG PITCH: How to minimize negative PR resulting from beingassociated with the Beijing Olympics

ALAN TAYLOR, Chief Executive, Alan Taylor Communications, New


The Olympic Games and the spirit they embody can help China make changes

in the way it treats its people. Those brands sponsoring the Games are

on the cutting edge of facilitating social change and erasing the stigma

attached to China's pitiful human rights record. If a brand puts

together a successful marketing program which focuses on the

contributions China has made to the world, it can change the tone from

negative to positive. One way that a company could do that is by having

a contest to send consumers to China for the Olympics or centering a

campaign on the beauty and uniqueness of the country. If a company

confronts the problem of China's human rights violations head on it

shouldn't have any problems. Negativity will only be created if the

company tries to ignore the problem.

CAROL COOKERLY, President, Cookerly Public Relations, Atlanta

I was involved with the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta for several clients. In

general, I don't think consumers hold corporations responsible for venue

problems or host-country issues. Consumers do hold companies accountable

for health and safety issues and financial irregularities - things that

have personal relevance. Even environmental issues are taken personally

these days. I think most companies involved in the Beijing Olympics will

play up the angle that opening the borders to evolving nations for

investment and the exchange of ideas is the best medicine for a poor

human rights record. Corporations are there because it's an Olympics;

the host site is secondary - although in this case, exposure offers huge

potential for US trade by building brands within a country of nearly 1.3

billion people.

MARIAN SALZMAN, Global Director of strategy and planning, Euro RSCG


I'm not sure that Beijing equals negativity. In fact, I think that the

PR spin on support for the Olympics is that the brands which step up to

the plate are brands prepared to fund the "watch" on how human rights

plays out in the People's Republic of China (PRC). Brands that get into

it, especially early, can associate themselves with a unique form of

triple bottom-line investing. 1. They can pay for the world to study how

people get treated in the PRC (under the spotlight we can truly expect

things to get decidedly better). 2. They can fund the beginning of true

media understandings about our brave new world (what can we do to

communicate desire and therefore reap profits). 3. They can walk that

very fine line which can never be bought: walking into controversy with

a well-conceived plan ensures they can talk up the benefits of being

there to put positive social values (true sportsmanship) forward at a

time when there aren't a lot of true-blue good sports companies


KELLY BROOKS, PR manager for global sports, Coca-Cola, Atlanta

I think it's important to remind people that business and politics have

distinctly different aims. It's in no one's best interest to place

marketers in the role of determining worldwide political acceptability.

The only role I can imagine for Coca-Cola in helping to minimize

negative publicity about China is to tell our own story - that we have

been operating there successfully for more than 20 years and have built

strong and treasured relationships with the Chinese people.

For more on the Beijing Olympics, see Campaigns, p. 46.

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