Survey Takes Pressure off Sponsors

Most Are Familiar With Concerns; Think Politics and Games Don't Mix

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CHICAGO ( -- Large majorities of Americans don't think politics has any place in the Olympic Games (85%) and don't think the sponsors of the games ought to be boycotted (82%) -- but nearly half of those queried in a recent survey of 500 Americans commissioned by Advertising Age said they expected those sponsors to pay a price anyhow.

The survey -- conducted by New Jersey-based Lightspeed Research between April 9 and April 11, as headlines regarding anti-China protests played prominently in the news -- found that 76% of respondents were either somewhat or very familiar with the human-rights concerns surrounding China's actions concerning Darfur and Tibet.

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The idea that people familiar with the concerns don't think sponsors should be boycotted ought to delight Olympic sponsors, some of which have insisted that the outrage voiced at Olympic torch relay sites in San Francisco and other cities is overblown. Some even predict a backlash from causal sports fans who don't want to be bothered by heavy topics such as genocide while they take in pole vaulting, Ping- Pong and other Olympic events.

Optimistic interpretation?
"The majority of folks just want to enjoy the Olympics," said one veteran marketing executive at a top-level Olympics sponsor, who predicted just such a tipping point was ahead. And, indeed, 76% of respondents said advertisers and sponsors should be participating in the games.

But that interpretation might be too optimistic, considering that the 18% already favoring a boycott of sponsors could wind up increasing as the games approach and protests presumably become more intense in the next four months.

More people (35%) said sponsors ought to "take a stand" regarding Darfur or Tibet than not (27%), with the largest percentage (38%) still undecided. Those figures included a significant gender gap, as 48% of men favored sponsors taking a stand while only 23% of women did.

Regardless, only 7% of respondents expected the sponsors to be positively affected by their participation in the games, compared with 48% who expected a negative impact.

The study also found TV had by far the most influence at making respondents aware of the protests, as 49% said they first learned of the situation by TV, compared with only 20% by the internet and 7% by newspaper. Radio's paltry 6% tally was the same as people who had heard about the issues via family and friends.
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