Olympic Image Tarnished by Drugs and Commercialization, Claims Survey

12 January 2001

A new global consumer survey by McCann-Erickson World Group shows widespread public disillusion with the once-golden Olympic Games brand.

The study, Worldwide Consumer Perceptions of the Olympic Games, is based on a sample of 1,850 consumer in 46 countries. It pinpoints over-commercialization and the widely-reported taking of performance enhancing drugs by athletes as the main reasons for the change in public perception of the Games.

According to McCann, the Olympics has two conflicting images: one symbolizing the lofty universal ideals associated with the Games over many decades; the other reflecting recent drug and political scandals and negative related media coverage. “These two brands appear to paradoxically coexist in the minds of most consumers,” concluded a summary of the report.

Says McCann-Erickson's director of brand strategy and research Joseph Plummer: “While the brand ideal has been generally unaffected by the brand reality — drug scandals, commercialization and the personal and political controversies — awareness of and concern with those issues have not simply vanished."

Despite this, avers Plummer, “the Olympics as a brand is alive and well … [and] maintains a wonderful egalitarian flair." But he warns future sponsors that they cannot ignore the emerging negativity associated with the event.

While the Olympics still hold a special place among adults over 40, one potentially disastrous finding is that younger people view the Olympics as “getting worse rather than better, and it has to do with drugs and over-commercialization”.

"People are concerned about the next step — that athletes will be covered in logos and each race will be sponsored," Plummer said. "They are saying we're starting to push the limits of commercialization and to try to control it and to use a little common sense."

News source: New York Times [11-Jan-00]