Celebrating Humanity: Olympic Marketing and the Homogenization of Multiculturalism. (Research Paper)

By Giardina, Michael D.; Metz, Jennifer L. | International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, June-July 2001 | Go to article overview

Celebrating Humanity: Olympic Marketing and the Homogenization of Multiculturalism. (Research Paper)


Giardina, Michael D., Metz, Jennifer L., International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship


Abstract: This paper critically analyzes the International Olympic Committee's 2000 global marketing campaign titled "Celebrate Humanity". Released prior to the 2000 Summer Games, this campaign capitalized on recent cultural trends by focusing on multicultural inclusivity and the idea that sport could contribute to world peace. Using this campaign as our case study, we demonstrate the possibilities for both local consumption and interpretation of a global campaign within the specific cultural context of the United States.

Keywords: multiculturalism, Olympics, global sport, identity politics, cultural studies

Executive Summary

The age of global communication offers unique and challenging marketing possibilities, especially when attempting to reach a diversified global audience. Those who market global brands, especially, are in a prime position to capitalize on the rapid expanse of communication technology. Add sport to the mix, and one can potentially speak the language of billions of consumers. However, it is imperative that marketing professionals must not overlook the role that local identity practices play in the interpretation of globally-standardized marketing messages. One global campaign, in particular, is a prime example of this need -- the International Olympic Committee's "Celebrate Humanity" campaign, which was released prior to the 2000 Summer Olympic Games held in Sydney, Australia.

Using this campaign as our case study, we demonstrate the possibilities for both local consumption and interpretation of a global campaign within a specific cultural context. Specifically, we (a) consider the implications of local identity politics -- in this case, of the United States -- in response to a globally-based marketing message; (b), discuss the role "multiculturalism" and "multicultural discourse" comes to be used in understanding what it means to "be American" in late-Modern America; and (C), offer the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) self-proclaimed global marketing campaign titled "Celebrate Humanity" as a case study of how the local operates in response (and resistance) to the global. This case study brings together the disciplines of marketing, cultural studies, and communications research to illustrate the various ways in which "Celebrate Humanity" is understood within the United States. Additionally, we seek to raise a cautionary flag toward the use of single-message marketing campaig ns for, as we will show, not understanding the cultural politics of a given locality leaves a standardized marketing message up to local interpretation and subversion, both of which may not have been anticipated or desired.

Our use of multiculturalism is drawn from the work of Stuart Hall and Ben Carrington, and is done so with an inherently-political agenda. Here, we define multiculturalism as both a political movement that strives to attain equality for all races and ethnicities, and as a state of being that acknowledges difference while striving to eliminate stereotyping and racial profiling. Specific to our case study, our overall aim is to critique the commercialization and exploitation of such an empowering discourse.

Our findings suggest several key implications for sport marketing professionals. First, the use of globally-standardized marketing messages is necessarily problematic when taking into consideration local particularities. In essence, by ignoring such particularities, the message may not only be diluted, but also potentially misinterpreted. Second, analyzing local identity practices and constructions leads to a more informed understanding of consumer behavior. This acknowledgment and understanding of identity can then be used in concert with traditional market research. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, while employing multicultural images and narratives into a global campaign does offer new market segmentations, it remains a highly-charged realm which is open to co-optation and consumer backlash. …

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