Many companies have used the Olympics as an ideal platform for positioning their brand to worldwide audience. However, with the games being held in a nation facing international criticism over human rights and privacy issues, the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing Feb. 4-20 will present challenges in marketing and cybersecurity.
Kim Saxton, clinical professor of marketing, said China’s human rights policies present a predicament for Olympic sponsors. While some companies – such as the Coca Cola Co. – have said they won’t advertise at the games, others that do may take a different approach than they have in the past.
“It creates an interesting challenge. There is more airtime available and the controversy is stoked. The athletes deserve the support. In fact, they depend on it. But with the U.S. government not sending a delegate, it creates an air of caution,” Saxton said, adding “the U.S. government has not expressly said that companies cannot advertise.
“There are other issues to consider as well. First, the winter Olympics have been very quiet. It’s quite unusual to have summer and winter Olympics within one year. Many consumers need that bi-annual cadence in order to process information about the Olympics and get excitement up,” she added. “Many Americans right now probably cannot name an athlete in more than one sport. And the games start in about two weeks.
“Traditionally, the Olympics is one of the few places that advertisers can find a critical mass of viewers on TV today. The Super Bowl, the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup are the largest TV audiences. So, advertisers have to be creative this year. Some will not mention the host city. Some will run ads that don’t mention the Olympics. Some will stay away. Finally, some will move their efforts to PR. They will balance a fine line of promoting their brands and athletes, while not promoting China.”
Sagar Samtani, assistant professor and Grant Thornton Scholar, whose research centers on AI for cybersecurity and cyber threat intelligence, is particularly watching two major cybersecurity issues.
“The Olympics are an international, global event. As such, there are often political undertones and agendas that may drive how countries present themselves. Disinformation, misinformation, and computational propaganda that are state-sponsored or provided by individual threat actors could pose a significant threat,” Samtani said.
Samtani noted that this will be biggest Olympics for streaming services. For example, NBC Universal will present Winter Olympics record of over 2,800 hours of coverage. But this move away from network reliance on broadcast channels could present a tantalizing target for hackers.
“The Olympics are a widely covered, highly publicized TV event. In recent years, streaming services have grown in popularity, while conventional satellite and cable services have declined. As such, the concerns around denial-of-service attacks against prevailing streaming services as it pertains to viewing the Olympics is a very real concern,” he said.
Scott Shackelford, associate professor of business law and ethics at Kelley, IU Cybersecurity Risk Management Program chair and director of the Ostrom Workshop Program on Cybersecurity and Internet Governance, said the high-profile diplomatic breach leading up to the games — including the boycott led by the United States – “means that the games could be targeted by hacktivists and other groups seeking to embarrass or otherwise harass Beijing.”
“There are always issues associated with the Olympics given that they are a target-rich environment for criminals seeking to target athletes and spectators alike,” Shackelford said. “Beijing’s harsh data localization, cybersecurity, and cyber sovereignty laws also raises human rights concerns for athletes and reporters attending the games.”
He also noted that ironically while the Olympic games generally often coincide with a peaceful break from ongoing geopolitical tensions, this might not last long. “Witness the Russian invasion of Crimea three days after the 2014 Sochi games concluded,” he said.
For more information and assistance in reaching Saxton, Samtani, Shackelford or any other Kelley expert, contact George Vlahakis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-855-0846.