Multinational Monitor

For Release: August 6, 2008 (embargoed for publication on August 6)
For More Information, contact: Robert Weissman, 202-387-8030; 202-360-1844 (cell)


Full Report

“Commercialism is overrunning the Olympics,” contends a report issued today by Multinational Monitomagazine and Commercial Alert, an advocacy group.

Commercialism “is undermining the professed ideals of the Olympic Games, and subverting the Olympics' veneration of sport with omnipresent commercial messaging and branding,” charges the report, “The Commercial Games: How Commercialism is Overrunning the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.”

A record 63 companies have become sponsors or partners of the Beijing Olympics, and Olympic-related advertising in China alone could reach $4 billion to $6 billion this year, according to CSM, a Beijing marketing research firm.

The Olympic Partners (TOP) program, run and managed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since 1985, includes 12 companies for the Beijing Olympics. These 12 companies have paid $866 million to the International Olympic Committee.

The U.S. Olympic system is awash in corporate sponsor money. Well over 100 corporations are sponsoring the U.S. Olympic Committee or U.S. national teams.

“The Olympic rush to sell sponsorships to the highest bidders has led to partnerships with companies whose products or methods of doing business betray Olympic ideals: junk food hawkers, beer and liquor peddlers, and equipment makers reliant on sweatshop contractors, among others,” says Jennifer Wedekind, co-author of the report and Multinational Monitor associate editor.

“The Commercial Games” documents the extent of sponsorship deals attached to the Olympics and official Olympics-related committees, down to everything from the “official home and industrial flooring supplier” to the “frozen dumplings exclusive supplier” of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. 

Commercial relations interfere with proper functioning of the Olympics, as well as undermining Olympic ideals, according to “The Commercial Games.” In at least one notable case, commercial entanglements have called into question the integrity of a national sports governing body. The relative commercial attractiveness of different sports is exacerbating imbalances in the resources and support available to athletes in different events. And, thanks to exclusive marketing arrangements, commercial sponsorship arrangements are improperly subjecting Olympic spectators to artificial monopolies at Olympic venues.

“The horse is out of the barn on Olympic sponsorships, and the world is unlikely to see a commercial-free Games anytime soon,” says Robert Weissman, managing director of Commercial Alert and editor of Multinational Monitor. “Nonetheless, the most egregious problems with the Olympics’ pervasive sponsorship arrangements can and should be addressed.” Right now, “the Olympic ideals of promoting authentic culture and education have been drowned beneath a sea of sponsorship and marketing arrangements.”

“The Commercial Games” recommends that the IOC, National Olympic Committees, and international and national sports governing bodies scale back the overall number of sponsorships. The report also urges the IOC and other Olympic bodies to refuse sponsorships from alcohol or junk food companies, or companies tied to gross human rights violations. It also recommends that they should insist that official, sponsoring apparel and equipment makers disclose where their products are manufactured, and ensure that their products are manufactured in a fashion that respects core labor standards.

An embargoed version of “The Commercial Games” is available at: <> and <>.

Multinational Monitor is a bimonthly magazine reporting critically on the activities of multinational corporations <>. Commercial Alert is an advocacy group that aims to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere <>.