For the next 3 weeks, The KMAC GROUP will be tracking Olympic sponsor activations demonstrating sponsorship best practices that will help you achieve a positive return on your investment. Each week, we’ll be assessing the Olympic sponsorship practices of leading global and Canadian companies, tracking their activities at all touch points to see how they use sponsorship to drive sales and identify which practices work best.
Our fourth installment of this series highlights a sponsorship best practice that many brands either gracefully own or sink deep into a never-ending pit of quicksand.
Here is a recap of sponsorship best practices we’ve covered so far:
- Sponsorship Practice #1: Deliver a simple, clear message.
- Sponsorship Practice #2: Connect with your audience emotionally
- Sponsorship Practice #3: Take an integrated, holistic approach
- Sponsorship Practice #4: Market your core strategy through sport…
- Sponsorship Practice #5: Add value to existing ideas and platforms
- Sponsorship Practice #6: Engage your audience
- Sponsorship Practice #7: Get in the game, in real-time
- Sponsorship Practice #8: Innovative strategic partnerships
- Sponsorship Practice #9: Bring the Olympic Game experience to those who can’t attend the Games.
This week we are introducing:
Sponsorship Practice #10: Building a strong, proactive PR Program. Example Dealing with negative press and activists.
The Coca-Cola Company is the largest beverage company in the world and is represented by Coca-Cola Ltd. In Canada. They make a variety of nonalcoholic sparking beverages including Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Sprite and alternatives such as Nestea, Minute Maid, Five Alive, Fruitopia, DASANI and Powerade.
It comes as no surprise that Coca-Cola Canada is taking part in this years Olympic Winter Games by sponsoring 3 Canadian Olympic Athletes; Patrick Chan, Steven Stamkos and Marianne St-Gelais. They have launched an #inspiredto marketing campaign where these athletes are fully integrated, and will be featured in both in-store and digital marketing campaigns, as well as Cinema and TV advertising. Canadians are encouraged to share their stories about how our Canadian Olympic athletes have inspired them on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #inspiredto. There will also be features of each story on Coca-Cola’s Olympic digital hub, along with an interactive map of Canada magnifying the reach of this campaign across the country.
“Coca-Cola Canada is proud to support these three exemplary athletes as they strive to achieve their dreams of going for the gold at the XXII Olympic Winter Games,” says Nicola Kettlitz, President, Coca-Cola Ltd. “The commitment and tenacity of these athletes serve as an inspiring reminder for all of us to get up and get moving every day.”
At retail the program has been activated through grocery, mass and drugstores across featuring a limited edition Coca-Cola Olympic Games collector can that includes the signature of each athlete over silhouette images of a hockey player, short track speed skater and figure skater.
Additionally, Coca-Cola has partnered with McDonald’s offering Canadians limited edition Sochi 2014 Coca-Cola® Collectors Pins with the purchase of an Olympic McNuggets Fan Pack meal.
However, there are other global macroenvironmental factors at play that Coca-Cola must address. Coca-Cola abroad has been under tremendous scrutiny for not taking a stand against Russian LGBT laws. The controversy regarding the Russian law restricting gay-rights activities has escalated online, and has forced Coca-Cola to shut down an interactive feature in one of their latest promotions where consumers were allowed to put messages on a Coke can to cheer on Olympic athletes. Since, Coca-Cola has issued an apology, recognizing that the promotion “generated an unintended outcome.”
“The digital version of the Share a Coke promotion did not properly limit the customization to individuals’ names,” a spokesman said. “As one of the world’s most inclusive brands, we value and celebrate diversity. We have long been a strong supporter of the LGBT community and have advocated for inclusion, equality and diversity through both our policies and practices. Again we apologize for any offence this has caused.”
There have been numerous protests and online attacks in the U.S. against major corporate sponsors of the International Olympic Committee, but Coca-Cola continues to stay cool, calm and collected in its approach to handling the controversy.
Coca-Cola continues to maintain a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equity Index since its launch in 2006, where they were one of the first US companies to support the Employment Non-Discrimination act, which protects employees from discrimination due to sexual orientation.
Continuing to defend their sponsorship of the IOC and the Olympic Games, they have made a list of their own credentials in terms of LGBT inclusiveness. The list can be found below:
- “We have a long-standing HR policy protecting our employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.”
- “We have a Global Mutual Respect Policy that sets out our expectations for how employees should treat one another as well as anyone they interact with as a representative of the Company. The policy outlines our commitment to valuing diversity and inclusion and providing a workplace free of discrimination or harassment. You can read more about this at: http://www.coca-colacompany.com/our-company/global-mutual-respect-policy“
- “We have scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index every year since it was launched in 2006.”
- “We have had an LGBT Business Resource Group at the Company for 13 years that is funded and supported through the Chief Diversity Officer’s department.”
- “We were one of the first companies in the U.S. to publicly support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to protect employees from discrimination due to sexual orientation.”
- “We have provided financial support and significant Company presence to several LGBT events over the past several years, including numerous Pride festivals and parades across the country.”
- “Our Global Supplier Diversity team participates in outreach events such as the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) Awards Dinner, the NGLCC Business and Leadership Conference, and the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Corporate Sponsors Reception.”
More recently, to show their commitment to diversity, Coca-Cola aired a Super Bowl ad called “America is Beautiful” featuring Americans of diverse ethnicities, religions, races and families. Coca Cola spokesman stated ‘it [was] a great example of the magic that makes our country so special, and a powerful message that spreads optimism, promotes inclusion and celebrates humanity – values that are core to Coca-Cola.”
The political and human rights issues surrounding the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games has and will continue to challenge companies to publicly show their pro-LGBT efforts. Coke, along with other corporate sponsors must find a balance between focusing on their bottom line while trying to be politically responsible. The lesson learned here is that there is an appropriate way of handing backlash and activists who attempt to sabotage sponsorship efforts. These brands need to be straight-forward, resist the urge to point fingers, and show the public that they are actively taking steps to resolve the situation.
— Coca-Cola Co. (IOC sponsor): “As one of the world’s most inclusive brands, we value and celebrate diversity. We have long been a strong supporter of the LGBT community and have advocated for inclusion and diversity through both our policies and practices. We do not condone intolerance or discrimination of any kind anywhere in the world. As an Olympic sponsor since 1928, we believe the Olympic Games are a force for good that unite people through a common interest in sports, and we have seen firsthand the positive impact and long-lasting legacy they leave on every community that has been a host. We support the core values of the Olympic Movement — excellence, friendship and respect — and are proud to continue our role in helping to make the Olympics a memorable experience for athletes, fans and communities all around the world. We are engaging with the International Olympic Committee on this important matter. We believe a more positive impact can be made through continued involvement, rather than by sitting on the sidelines.”
As the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games progress, we’ll be watching and reporting any developments.