Since 1928 Coca-Cola has been affiliated with the Olympics, making the company the Olympics’ oldest partner. With the 2012 festivities due to start in a few weeks, Coke is stepping up their multifaceted marketing campaign.
The company is using their significant Olympic presence to polish up their brand a bit. Two main themes of the London campaign are healthy living and environmental awareness. By combining these themes with traditional advertising media, Coca-Cola appears poised to diffuse critical rumblings about how their products contribute to obesity and environmental problems.
As part of their environmental campaign, Coca-Cola built a sustainable warehouse from which to stage their Olympic operations. The warehouse, which incorporates solar water heating and photovoltaic cells as well as other sustainable features, will generate one third less carbon than traditional warehouse and delivery operations. The company is also using 14 biogas-fueled delivery trucks to supply the Olympics and the London region. Carbon offsets will be purchased to compensate for the remainder of their impact.
Coca-Cola has pledged to recycle 100% of all colorless PET plastic containers generated at the Games. Over 250 recycling containers are already in place throughout London. All plastic Coke bottles sold will contain 25 percent recycled material, and some product packaging will also contain 22.5 percent plant-based matter.
Move to the Beat is the healthy living component of Coke’s Olympic campaign. This program focuses on encouraging people, particularly young people, to become interested in sports and a more active lifestyle. An Olympic song was crafted based on the sounds of five Olympic sports. The musical theme is integrated into commercials, mobile applications and online.
A documentary film about the song’s genesis was created. Other components include an interactive pavilion at the games and a charitable foundation that provides sports and internship opportunities for disadvantaged youth. Inspiring young people were also chosen as flame carriers for the torch relay.
As a primary sponsor Coca-Cola chose 22 other participants in the relay. Participants were chosen based on three criteria. Those chosen were active in their community or in environmental causes. Participants were also required to be role models for leading an active lifestyle. Numerous former Olympians like Michelle Kwan and Summer Sanders were chosen as well as individuals who started charitable organizations.
Coke’s sponsorship of and tremendous presence at the Olympics hasn’t been without controversy this year. The choice of Dr. William Zoghbi, president of the American College of Cardiology, as one of the relay carriers raised some eyebrows. Since cardiologists all too frequently must deal with the aftereffects of obesity, the linkage of cardiology and Coke seemed questionable to some observers.
The president of the Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, has acknowledged the seeming conflict between the Olympics’ lofty physical fitness ideals and sponsorship by corporations like Coke and McDonald’s. With obesity-related health care costs skyrocketing in Britain and the U.S., activists on both continents are striving to show the incongruity between the Olympics and these popular brands.
Rogge admitted the conflict, but stressed the sponsorships are critical funding sources for training Olympic athletes. Coke’s line of no-calorie drinks were also mentioned as proof of the corporation’s commitment to healthy living. Indeed, Coke estimates that 75 percent of its beverages consumed at the Olympics will be zero-calorie, water, smoothies and juices.