In The Economist article, none of the brand sponsors (there’s a list here on Wikipedia) it contacted were available for comment. That might have worked on this occasion but as the starting date approaches, being silent isn’t going to be an option. My advice to the sponsors is start your crisis communications and media operations training now so you’re well prepared.
There are now 190 human rights organisations are calling for the boycott – that’s a lot of activists who are preparing to organise their following to “name and shame” and I would guess a potential #GrabYourWallet campaign.
Let’s face it, in hosting the Olympics, the CCP is looking to win gold in public relations and global posturing. So all that brand sponsorship money could well be argued to be directly helping an authoritarian country with no respect for human rights pretend that it’s actually just a normal sport-loving culture like ours.
If you’re a brand sponsor for the 2022 winter Olympics, I strongly recommend that you rehearse your defence against very aggressive online narratives, activists and associated real-world factory, store & transport route blockades. A quick search on Twitter for #2022GenocideOlympics shows the transmedia activists are only just getting started. I’m guessing that the usual platitudes aren’t going to help when various studies in recent years show that consumers want brands to take a stand on ethical issues. The onslaught is coming and you’d do well to simulate the information environment in Conducttr.