by Kate Vandeveld

The Olympic Games are an opportunity for countries all over the world to come together and feel proud. That said, they are also problematic. They are incredibly expensive to host, and utilize a lot of taxpayer money in countries that have much more pressing needs. They also require the building of many new, often temporary and shoddily built, infrastructure, and a great deal of short-term beautification that is not for the city’s general betterment, but for the sake of public perception.

What’s happening in this year’s Olympics, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is no exception. In fact, in many ways, it’s exemplary of all that’s wrong with the Olympics.

One major issue is that Brazil is currently experiencing its biggest recession since the 1930s.  To host the Olympics, the Brazilian government spent a whopping $4.6 billion –  “a conservative estimate that covers facilities used for sports only.” With all other expenses included, that number rises to $12 billion. Given the state of the country’s economy and the fact that the country’s entire budget for 2015 was $631 billion, that’s no small number. Though the hope is that Brazil will make money in the end, that hasn’t been the case in Olympics past; in the end, hosting the Olympics will likely do nothing positive for the country’s economy.

Olympic host countries like Brazil often go to great lengths in an attempt to put their best faces on, often to their detriment in the long term. Remember what happened in Sochi? After the Russian government sank $51 billion into the 2014 Winter Olympics, the Olympic park now lies “desolate and abandoned,” and the same goes for many of the hotels and tourist attractions that were erected for the Games.

Another major issue, as is the case with many large-scale sporting events, is the increase in unfair labor, violence and trafficking that happens as a result of the Games. During the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, for example, sexual exploitation rose nearly 40%.  And for Sochi, nearly 70,000 migrant workers were brought to Russia, resulting in them being underpaid, overcrowded, and overworked for the duration of their time at the Games.

These are just a few of many available statistics on this issue. Unfortunately, the situation hasn’t been much better in Brazil. Leading up to the Games, workers building Olympic Village went on strike in 2014, demanding fair wages and work hours. The majority of these workers came from some of the most poverty stricken parts of the country.  Brazil already has major issues around sex trafficking, with an estimated half million child sex workers in the country prior to the Games. And with the influx of tourists into the country, that number is only expected to rise as the Olympics carry on.

Because of the numerous economic, social, and environmental issues that Brazil is currently facing, this year’s summer Olympics offered so much opportunity for corporate sponsors to think about how they could have a positive impact in the country. So why didn’t they do it?

Some are saying that mainstay Olympic sponsors like Coca-Cola and P&G have opted to keep their distance from the Games, knowing that the end result could be further economic devastation and chaos. Whatever the reason, very few companies have taken the opportunity to step up and provide social or environmental value to the country.

That said, several are making an effort – here’s how:

The Dow Chemical Company

Dow - Rio 2016 - WhyWhisper

The Dow Chemical Company is the official Carbon Partner of Rio 2016. What does this mean? Among other things, the company has worked with local farmers to “produce precision agriculture technology and low carbon solutions for seeds” in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is part of Dow’s larger “Sustainable Future” program, which will implement these technologies and solutions across Brazil and Latin America in the coming years. Energy consumption around major sporting events like the Olympics is astronomical, so it’s crucial that companies like Dow step up and offer better options now more than ever. We hope to see Dow measure and quantify their efforts, to pave the way for similar actions by corporations down the line.


Bridgestone Corporation

Bridgestone - Rio 2016 - WhyWhisper

Bridgestone Corporation, the world’s largest tire and rubber company, is the Official Tire of the Olympic Games this year. In advance of the Games, the company made it known that it planned to utilize its sponsorship to showcase its socially and environmentally responsible standards and programs. In recent years, the company has stepped up its efforts in sustainability and has worked to improve its business operations by focusing on employee safety and “corporate citizenship.” Bridgestone has had an incredible opportunity here to offer eco-friendly, sustainable options for many aspects of the infrastructure built for and equipment used in the Games, and we look forward to learning about the ways in which they’ve done so.



Samsung - Rio 2016 - WhyWhisper

Samsung, an international manufacturer of TVs, digital cameras, DVDs, VCRs and audio systems, opted to approach their sponsorship in a way that is less tangible, but also noteworthy. As we noted above, the Olympics provide us with an opportunity for citizens of the world to come together for one purpose, and feel pride in our countries of origin.  Samsung’s campaign for the Olympics focuses on doing just that – encouraging us to “embrace our shared humanity and the positive change that comes when the world comes together.” In a time when international tensions are high, that’s something we can get behind.



Nissan - Rio 2016 - WhyWhisper

Japanese multinational automobile manufacturer, Nissan, is an official sponsor of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. As part of their sponsorship in Rio, the company provided 5,000 vehicles to the Games and the Brazil Olympic team in particular, offsetting costs that would have otherwise been covered by the government. In addition, for the Paralympic Games, Nissan has instituted a mentorship program that pairs 31 able-bodied athletes with disabled athletes leading up to the Games. We applaud Nissan’s efforts to find unique ways to provide social and economic value in their sponsorship.


Do you know of a company that is doing something positive around the Olympics? Whether its through sponsorship or a cause marketing campaign, we want to hear about it. Share with us by: