Beijing Olympics Under Attack. How Should Luxury Behave?

What Happened: Beijing is becoming the first city to host a Summer and Winter Olympics, but the situation is not all roses. Human rights activists put in a call to boycott the Games over China’s human rights record just as the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics organizers received the Olympic flame at a heavily-guarded Panathenaic stadium in central Athens. A few feet away from the stadium, protestors unfurled a banner reading “No Genocide Games” while holding a Tibetan flag. Greek police had to cut off access to the location and allocate several police officers for fear of more protests.

Already months ahead of the Beijing Olympics, China was facing intense criticism from several countries, including the US, which accused its government of committing genocide against Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region, repressing Tibet, and cracking down on freedoms in Hong Kong (allegations China denies).

The Jing Take: Brands are currently facing a tough decision. Human rights groups have also pushed Olympic sponsors (Coca-Cola, Intel, Swatch Group, and many others) to use their platform to boycott Beijing. Mark Tanner, managing director of Shanghai-based marketing and branding firm China Skinny, said: “Companies will find it challenging to balance the sensitive needs of Chinese consumers with increasingly vigilant watchers in the West, as both can have a material impact on revenue.”

But the Beijing Games present an excellent opportunity for brands to connect with local consumers. On September 1, Prada exclusively launched their Prada On Ice collection at the SKP Atrium in Beijing in response to the upcoming Winter Olympics and was received with great enthusiasm. For now, ‘glocalised’ marketing strategies seem like a solution that resonates well with domestic buyers while not upsetting Western consumers. Yet, there may come a day when brands will have to take a stance, and supporting both sides may no longer be a solution.

Prada on Ice Beijing Winter Olympics

Prada exclusively launched its “Prada On Ice” collection at the SKP Atrium in Beijing ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Photo: Courtesy of Prada

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.