The chief marketing officer for the International Olympics Committee (IOC) has said the organisation will stand by sponsors such as Coke and McDonalds, who are facing mounting calls to be banned from being associated with the Games given their links to obesity.
"We stand by our partners. They are true partners of the [Olympics] movement," Melinda May, head of marketing strategy and activation at the IOC told The Drum at Cannes Lions this week.
The seeming contradiction of having so called junk food brands sponsoring the Olympics has plagued the IOC since the London Olympics in 2012. But the criticism gained new momentum recently with chef Jamie Oliver slamming the deals struck by the IOC. He said the fact that the only food and drink available inside the Olympic park during the London Games was produced by McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, or Cadbury meant no one could be "proud" of the event from a healthy eating perspective.
"Forgive me if I am being romantic – but in our lifetime at the Olympics, which is the biggest theatre of all time, I want to see something with goodness at its heart on its billboards,” he said, as he revealed he would be campaigning for them to raise their nutritional and ethical standards.
However, May disagreed that allowing Coke and McDonlad’s to sponsor the event was a wrong, saying their efforts to offer people healthier options and get kids active and interested in sport through their marketing is reflective of the Olympics brand values.
“What Jamie maybe doesn’t know are the things they do for the [Olympics] movement. McDonald’s and Coke are both about getting kids active and they use the Olympics to empower youth, help them grow and mature and get active. And so we stand by these [companies] who help us spread a positive message.”
Coke has been an Olympics sponsor for nearly 90-years while McDonald’s has been a partner since the mid-1970s. The Guardian estimates that for the London Olympics they each spent around £64m to acquire the rights.