News Analysis: Political Minefield

Marketing, June 8, 2005 | Go to article overview

News Analysis: Political Minefield


Live 8's agenda may ultimately prove too unpalatable for potential corporate sponsors, writes James Curtis.

Live 8 looks set to be the event of the summer, headlined by rock 'n' roll royalty, watched by millions worldwide and, if the legacy of Live Aid is anything to go by, making its mark in history.

The concerts will be held on 2 July in five cities - four in Europe and one in the US - on the eve of the G8 summit in Scotland, and appear to be an unmissable opportunity for corporate sponsors.

Certainly, Sir Bob Geldof and the event's organisers hope so. If Live 8 is to be a spectacular free-for-all that succeeds in highlighting the plight of Africa, it will have to be big; and to ensure that it pulls this off, a degree of corporate support will be needed.

But it is not as simple as that. This is not like Party in the Park, nor any other summer music festival for that matter; Geldof wants it to be a highly charged political event, saying it is 'not for charity, but political justice'.

He has already run into trouble with the authorities by calling for 1m protestors to converge on Edinburgh for an anti-poverty rally. Judging by events surrounding previous G8 summits, Live 8 could quickly become the focal point for anti-globalisation and anti-corporate protests, an element that could put off potential sponsors.

Brand backers

Some companies have already signed up. O2 is providing a mobile ticketing solution, distributing the 150,000 free tickets for the Hyde Park concert through an SMS competition. AOL has clinched the rights to broadcast all five concerts over the internet, while Capital Radio has signed up as the broadcast partner for radio. The BBC will beam TV pictures around the world, hoping to exceed the 1.5bn viewers who watched Live Aid in 1985.

It is perhaps too early to tell how many other sponsors will emerge.

Jan Lindemann, global managing director of Interbrand, says companies will have to weigh up the lure of massive publicity against the high political risk involved.

'It involves a strongly political debate. The question as a corporation is do you want to get into that or not,' he says. 'For example, does it want to be involved in anything that openly criticises the G8? Most big companies don't want to be seen to criticise the Bush administration. They don't want to risk their lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.'

Lindemann adds that Live 8 could be an excellent sponsorship opportunity if its focus is on mainstream opposition to world poverty. However, if this turns to a wider anti-globalisation and anti-US agenda, corporations could find themselves exposed. The trouble is there is no way of knowing which way the wind will blow. 'Also, by participating, you open up the opportunity for journalists to look for your dirty laundry,' he warns.

Critical appraisal

Some groups are already casting a critical eye over O2's involvement.

Pressure group Corporate Watch argues that mobile phone firms are worsening the problems of the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. The country is the source of coltan - a vital component in mobile phone pinhead capacitors. …

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