The chief executive of Coca-Cola has defended the role of Olympic sponsors, saying that without them the Games would not be anything like as rich an event.
The chief executive of Coca-Cola, Muhtar Kent, has defended the role of Olympic sponsors, saying that without them the Games would not be anything like as rich an event and would probably include fewer countries.
In a rare interview, Mr Kent responded to critics of the “corporate” nature of the Olympics, arguing that sponsors were quite within their rights to protect their investment.
He said that some people wanted to “take all the benefit” the Olympic sponsors provide but still attack them.
Mr Kent also said that levels of trust in business were at all-time lows as they were in governments and non-governmental organisations. All three had to work together to rebuild bridges with the public.
The chief executive, who is also chairman, said that Coke was not responsible for empty seats at the Games’ venues and had given its ticket allocation to staff, community leaders who were part of its “future flames” project and partners such as suppliers. Francois Hollande, the French president, suggested that the Olympic organisers had given too many tickets to companies.
Most commentators have said it is actually national Olympic federations that have not used up their allocation.
Mr Kent said that health campaigners who were critical of the company did not give Coke credit for its health projects and the high number of low and no-calorie drinks it now produces.
“Take a country like Britain,” Mr Kent told The Sunday Telegraph. “Thirty years ago, everything sold under the Coca-Cola trade mark would be with full calories. Today, 30 years later, 40pc sold under the Coca-Cola trademark are with no calories. I would say [to the critics] 'show me another category of branded food or branded fast-moving consumer goods that have been able to innovate to the level where 40pc and going up are calorie free’.”
Mr Kent is in London for the Olympics, which Coca-Cola sponsors alongside Procter & Gamble and McDonald’s.
“I think there is a fine balance,” Mr Kent said on the protection of rights at the Games. “But at the same time, it is wrong to say you should provide total freedom and not have any protection of our intellectual rights.
“There is a fine line between protecting the small guys and giving them opportunities and protecting intellectual property rights and brands.
“In today’s world, many countries may not be able to put teams together [if there wasn’t the level of sponsorship presently available].
“A big portion of all the funds generated through partners like Coca-Cola and others are channelled through the International Olympic Committee back to the countries, which helps the Olympic movement and national Olympic committees. You can’t just say, 'I’ll take all the benefit and I’m always going to be critical’. There has to be a balanced approach.”
Mr Kent refused to confirm or deny reports that Coke is looking at a sponsorship deal with Formula One, saying that “rumours will stay rumours”.
He also said that Coke’s majority stake in the UK smoothie maker, Innocent, could increase in the future but that the company was “very happy” with the present arrangement.
Turning to the world economy, Mr Kent said that the present growth crisis could last another three years and that America would be ahead of Europe out of the economic downturn because of its diversity and entrepreneurial spirit.
“The US, because of its demographic profile, is going to come out of this crisis before Europe,” he said.
“The US still has a robust culture of entrepreneurial spirit. It is the only Western nation that has a positive demographic compared with Europe and Japan.
“Europe needs to understand that it needs to do something about its demographic [with] immigration and a more diverse population.”
Please login to add to favorites
Already added to favorites
Added as Favorite