Can China’s Olympics & Its Sponsors Defeat Omicron?

What Happened: The Winter Olympic Games — usually a festive global event — are scheduled to start next week, as the world turns its attention to the host country. But for China, each day seemingly brings another hurdle, from diplomatic boycotts and human-rights activist demands for corporate sponsors to withdraw support from what some are calling the “Genocide Olympics” to the highly transmissible Omicron variant that is putting China’s zero-COVID policy to the test. Today, 23 new COVID-19 cases related to the Winter Games were reported as thousands of athletes and coaches continue to make their way to the mainland. 

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The Jing Take: Mounting problems threaten the success of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, including new challenges to sponsors, brands associated with the games, and international marketing activities. And China finds itself in the tough position of proving its highly touted zero-COVID strategy remains the most effective way to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Normally, the games would reflect China’s vast achievements under President Xi Jinping and display China’s “commitment to building a community with a shared future for mankind.” But as Omicron cases increase daily inside China’s Olympic “bubble” and beyond, how China responds might become the lasting memory of these games. Like most of the globe, will it pivot toward living with an endemic COVID-19? Or will it ride its zero-COVID policy into the ground, taking with it any lasting soft power effects of hosting the games? Or worse, will this approach only add weight to an already sluggish economy and the Chinese luxury market that so many global brands are married to at this point?

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.