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Will the 2008 Olympics survive the PR “Disaster”? (part 2)

April 8, 2008

Apparently the jury is out on how the protests are going to affect the Olympics this year.  According to Reuters: NBC Universal has sold 75 percent of advertising inventory for its Olympics broadcast and has seen no discomfort from marketers over pro-Tibet protests against China, Chief Executive Jeff Zucker said on Monday.

Zucker told Reuters in an interview that Olympic advertising prices have been “incredibly strong” even amid political tensions and anti-China protests ahead of the August games in Beijing.

“The fact is the Olympics are a sporting event on the world stage,” he said. “It’s not surprising that some would try to use that stage to further their own causes and we understand that, but at the end of the day this is about the event and both the advertisers and our viewers understand that.”

So what is the impact of the negative PR of the torch relay?  Is NBC working on damage and spin control?  Will the mere fact of saying – “don’t worry all is well” mean that everything is well?  I’m not so sure.

Crises communications may be one tactic in this instance, yet I truly believe that the Olympics need to differentiate itself from its host country.  Now by no means am I saying that the IOC is as sanctified of an entity as they believe they are, yet the spirit of the games needs to take some strategic action to separate itself.

The spirit of the games has always been about the personal and team achievements on a global stage in a competition that is supposed to unify countries to support their representative athletes and break down barriers between the nations.  These stories of triumph will need to be told, and the more stories of human achievement will have to come out in order to regain focus on the games instead of the politics.  I don’t mean that we should turn our backs on the stories of the Tibetan people, and I believe that we need to utilize more and greater means of pressure on China to change its ways or it will never truly be seen as a good global citizen, as it had hoped that these games would depict them to be.

When it is all said and done, I am glad I am not the one tasked with solving this PR problem, but boy is it fun to think of ways to make it work…

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