Thursday, 17 May 2012

The untold story of Olympic sponsorship

Underneath the optimistic portrayal of sponsorship in the media lies the true effect that sponsorship plays on Olympic athletes.

Some athletes we have spoken to have said they have felt "as if they (their sponsor Adidas) didn't care) so we have to ask - does the Olympic sponsorship system really care for its athletes?

Launch of the team GB kit: Photo from Adidas press
Big sponsors and brands are popping up everywhere in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic games and people are becoming more familiarised with big named athletes, but what about the athletes you don't hear about?

Globally athletes are being used to push mass consumerism, with sports brand giant Adidas being quoted in the Telegraph and on the Economic Times websites as saying:

"If they don't win, then you've had some value out of them in the run-up"

During our investigation we have uncovered and discussed several athletes who lack sponsorship and their personal experiences. From this research and our own exclusive interview we have been able to break down the PR image pushed forward by sponsors and see the untold story.

In our interview we bought you the exclusive story of our anonymous source whose athletic career and personal life was destroyed by their sponsor. 

Our contact describes their tragic ordeal with their sponsor Adidas. 

When Adidas took this athletes accommodation, training equipment and money they were left bankrupt and desperate and haven't been able to return to athletics since.

We have repeatedly attempted to contact Adidas regarding our investigation but we have yet to receive a response.

Are they avoiding our questions or just avoiding the issue completely? Their delay on responding to our questioning is definitely something to be noted. In our previous investigation Adidas responded to another exclusive interview stating:

 “...our company and how we respect our clients. Our sponsorship deals are freely available if the public request, like most companies we have an exclusivity term within our contract. However we do not feel this deters clients from their role within the sporting field they represent, we are merely assisting and aiding their profile.”

Our investigation has not only highlighted this exclusive case but several other cases such as James Ellington and Warington who although successful Olympians have struggled to get sponsored and be able to compete in the games.

In the run up to the 2012 games approximately 1,800 athletes were dropped by the WCPP according to Brian Brady of the Independent. Statistically funding is going up but so is the amount of athletes being neglected.

Is this neglect down to just sponsors or the entire Olympic sponsorship system?

Breaking down official documentation provided by LOCOG and the IOC it has become increasingly clear that the systems provides limited restrictions to athletes with high gain rewards to the companies behind the scenes. 

Any rise in popularity, athletic achievement or notoriety ultimately benefits the system foremost. Our recent post exploring the legal side of sponsorship discusses the advertising compliance law and its effect on athletes. 

The cases we have investigated experience problems from a variety of different areas of sponsorships and sponsors which highlights the developing flaws in the system.

Athletes are starting to slip through the cracks of Olympic sponsorship leaving them vulnerable and neglected. Unfortunately these athletes are becoming another set of statistics and more and more cases continue to grow.

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