“On television the Olympics looks like an athletic event, but on location it’s a big business convention,” says president of a brand research firm to the New York Times, explaining why corporations are putting so much money into the 2008 games.
Sponsoring the Olympics is a long-term, expensive deal for companies, but they do it because their logo is seen all over the world in connection to an international, historic and hopefully peaceful event.
Unfortunately, the lead-up to the Olympics has been far from peaceful. The Olympic torch, the symbol of the Games, needed Chinese cops in tracksuits to stop it from being dosed by protesters. And superstars like Hillary Clinton, George Clooney and Steven Spielberg protest against China and corporate sponsors for human rights and geo-political reasons.
The last thing any company wants is a connection to a China controversy. So to avoid that they are focusing on Beijing’s theme of greening the 2008 Olympics. They explain their efforts through environmentally friendly initiatives, campaigns, products, exhibits, displays — just about anything else that you can broadcast to the world that Olympic sponsorship is a solid CSR move.
This is the first post of a series that will detail various multinationals sponsoring the Olympics.
GE’s environmental campaign, Ecomagination, is already big in China, getting bigger, and the Olympics is a chance for GE to shine in China and abroad (like in America, where GE-owned and -integrated NBC has exclusive broadcasting rights). GE has outfitted 37 competition venues and hundreds of Beijing’s buildings with energy saving and water recycling technology from their Ecomagination product line. And the Ecomagination center — “a two-story building that is half fun house, half museum exhibit” — in the middle of the Olympic green is an exhibit for Ecomagination products.
You know the iconic building you see on all the ads that looks like a bird’s nest, hence the name “Bird’s Nest”? GE will be lighting it up with special low energy LED bulbs. That is just one of over 335 infrastructure projects that they company is doing for the Beijing Games.
As the “official provider of water treatment facilities and survives,” a number of GE’s initiatives focuses on China and water. All of these products, services, and solutions are being called Ecomagination products, marketed under the banner of a green 2008 Olympics. Some of these solutions include the following:
- Donating water treatment technology for Dongguan and its surrounding villages. This should be improving not only GE’s green Olympic image, but also its government relations. The company is working with the Ministry of Water Resources.
-Selling China’s first advanced membrane rainwater recycling system for the National Stadium to manage all the water the building and surrounding area is going to take.
- Providing a type of water recycling system in Qinghe Water Reclamation Plant.
As one CEO at GE said, “We see the Olympic[s] as an essential means to communicate with the local market in China…our ‘Ecomagination’ strategy perfectly matches Beijing’s promise of holding a ‘Greener Olympics.’”
GE is selling and donating the know-how to put green into their Olypmic CSR platform. For any country operating in China that has anything to do with water, it makes sense to preserve this crucial natural resource. GE is not the only one focusing on water. Coca-Cola is up next.
Stay tuned for our next corporate profile in a future ResponsibleChina post.