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The cost of sponsoring the Olympic Games was estimated at about $78 million in 2008. And, according to this article, explaining why Lenovo has decided to pull out of its Olympic sponsor activities, the estimated cost is to increase by 10% every 4 years.

Based on those numbers, I am making an assumption that may be a safe one… RBC and Coca Cola have probably spent upwards of $80 million dollars to be sponsors of the 21st Winter Olympics which will be held in Vancouver, BC in less than 48 hours. HBC, in their own right, have likely spent a significant amount as well to be the sponsors of Canada’s Olympic team – to be the providers of our Olympic athletes’ uniforms. And, Bell as well as the main sponsor of the Olympic Torch Relay.

Sponsorship dollars cover the costs of the Games, including elements like building the Athlete Village, transportation, security, and venue building and management. These sponsors actually contribute to the pride of a country.

Considering the price tag, considering the input of time, and considering the value of the contribution from these sponsors – is it OK for other, non-sponsor companies, to make a profit on the Games?

I recognize the fine line between a Canadian company cheering on our athletes – especially in a year where Canada is hosting the Games – and simply profiteering off an event by riding the coat tails of its visibility. But, if Olympic sponsors start seeing competing companies profit off the Olympics without putting “skin in the Games” then, why would they continue to sponsor? And, if they stopped sponsoring, what would happen to the Olympic movement?

Consider the following:

  • Knowing that HBC is the official provider of the Canadian Olympic Team uniform, how do you feel about Lululemon’s approach to capitalizing on the Games?
  • What about ROOTS Canada, the previous providers of the uniform, launching a rather patriotic line of clothing so close to the Vancouver Olympics?
  • Any thoughts on Scotiabank’s “Show your Colours” campaign? The timing of this launch and the message are interesting, yes?
  • And, my personal favourite… Cheer nation, really? Pepsi – what’s wrong with “GO CANADA GO”?

Personally – my opinion is: if you want to make money off the Games, then pony up! Otherwise, it is perfectly acceptable to cheer for the host country, or the country you do business in… but, that is do-able without treading (even if ever-so-lightly) on the lines that separate the sponsors, who are contributing to the Olympic Games, and the non-sponsors, who are using the Games to garner attention…

I would love to hear other thoughts on this… I debated this for a while before creating this post.