Sunday, February 9, 2014

Olympics 2014: Where Everyone Is a Corporate Trademark

 I tuned in to the Olympics this weekend and got pretty much what I deserved: a relentless onslaught of commercial odes to global capitalism interspersed with a few carefully edited moments of actual athletic competition. The actual athletes highlighted were invariably Americans. (Or better yet, refugees to America from "lesser countries" who don't enjoy our Freedoms). And NBC and its corporate sponsors are making sure that the competitors are spending as much air-time being shills for consumer products as they are skiing and skating.

They can be silent shills, of course. Check out the bottles of Coca-Cola product strategically placed next to Bob Costa's interview subjects.

So, what's more off-putting -- malfunctioning toilets and brown water in Putin's Russia, or figure skater Ashley Wagner being forced to gush her gratitude to her Procter & Gamble Mom (TM) for washing her golden tresses with Pantene Shampoo and making sure she brushed with Crest after every meal?

The stench of neoliberal propaganda seems particularly acute in this year's Olympics, which are brought to United States viewers by one of the six conglomerates comprising the American Media-Political complex. The sports message and the political message seem to mesh perfectly. Personal responsibility, hard work, pushy self-sacrificing Tiger Mothers bringing up kids to be patriotic brand consumers and workhorses are sold as the keys to an Olympic Medal.  The slopes may be slippery, but trickle-down Corporate Benevolence -- not the taxing of the rich to enable direct government funding of athletic programs -- will reward the select few who possess that all-important Grit and Resilience (TM). President Obama couldn't have asked for better televised neoliberal runner-greasing, as corporatized athleticism partners with presidential prowess to advance the trans-global market-based solutions agenda. Just last week, Obama himself was able to reach the heights of Income Inequality performance art before executing an Opportunistic Double Flip followed by the usual crowd-pleasing spin.


Pivoter-in-Chief


And speaking of pivots, let's get back to P&G. Ashley and her Mom (TM) are just one family among the more than two dozen kinship units entrapped by something called The Procter and Gamble Global Family Home in Sochi. It's a one-stop Nirvana Shop offering everything from toilet paper that clogs up Putin's toilets, to free dentistry, to batteries for snapping Selfies while bobsledding, thus necessitating all that cosmetic dentistry.  From the press release:


The P&G Family Home is the heart of the company’s Thank You Mom program for Sochi 2014, in which P&G brands honor the role moms play in helping their kids achieve their dreams. Tide® athlete, Nick Goepper (USA), Pampers® athlete, Oksana Domnina (Russia) and Rosi Mittermaier, double Olympic gold medalist and mother of Gillette athlete, Felix Neureuther (Germany), attended the opening of the Family Home. Here, Opening Ceremony tickets were presented to moms of athletes partnering with P&G brands in countries around the world.
“Our brands are in the business of serving all moms on their journey through life with their kids,” said Phil Duncan, P&G Global Design Officer, who helped welcome moms and families of Olympians at the opening of the Family Home. “So when a P&G brand sponsors an athlete, we celebrate the mom who helped get them here.”
P&G brands are providing moms and families of Olympians in Sochi with more than 1,200 hours of everyday services that make an extraordinary difference when families are far from home. 
For instance, P&G’s beauty brands are offering the opportunity for pampering in the P&G Salon through:
·         Hair washing and styling services at the Pantene Studio
·         Treating moms to makeovers and polished manicure services at the COVERGIRL® Studio
·         Providing skin care recommendations for moisturizing body and hands at the Olay Studio
·         Hair coloring, cutting and styling treatments at the Wella® Studio
P&G male grooming brands are serving men in the Salon with:
·         Hot towel shaves and face massages at the Gillette Studio
·         Relaxing hair washes and styling services at the Head & Shoulders® Studio
·         Male grooming treatments, including the Perfect Trim by Braun®


Additional P&G brands supporting moms and families of Olympians in Sochi include:
·         Bounty, Charmin® and Puffs® are providing homecare products in the Family Home
·         Pampers is offering a changing station to help families with small children
·         Duracell® Powermats are enabling guests to charge their mobile devices while relaxing and watching the Games
·         Ariel® will be used to clean 30,000 linens per day, as well as serve moms of sponsored athletes with daily laundry services throughout the duration of the Games
·         Fairy® will be used to clean dishes in Olympic Village
·         Crest®/Oral-B®/blend-a-med® have teamed up with SOCOG in its provision of the Sochi 2014 dental clinic. The facility provides dental screenings, routine dental work, emergency care and oral care products for athletes and coaches in Sochi. 
U.S. Olympic athlete, Nick Goepper, was among the first to experience the services provided at the P&G Family Home. “I’m proud to be part of the P&G family of athletes. Not just because my mom and I use P&G brands like Tide, but also because of how they have supported my mom and me throughout my journey to the Olympic Games.. Knowing my mom will be taken care of here at the P&G Family Home gives me a little extra peace of mind so I can concentrate on what I came here to do.”
“The Family Home really feels like a home and I’m looking forward to connecting with other families of Olympians from around the world,” said Rosi Mittermaier, Double Olympic Gold Medalist. “It is a wonderful thing that Gillette and the other P&G brands are doing for families.”
“Serving moms and families is just what P&G brands do,” said Lada Kudrova, P&G Marketing Director, who also took part in the opening of the Family Home. “That’s why the P&G Family Home is our single activation at the Games. On the eve of Opening Ceremony, we’re honored to serve moms and families of Olympians in Sochi tonight and throughout the Games.”
 The subliminal message that Nick Goepper is being exploited to impart is that since the corporate overlords are supporting him and his mother, they don't have to rely on such social democratic niceties as food stamps and unemployment insurance. 

And in keeping with the subliminal neoliberal message of "no pain, no gain," there's a particularly loathsome P&G TV commercial currently airing during the Olympics. Called "Pick Them Back Up," it's a sadistic new variation on the enduring theme of the Helicopter Mom. It starts out harmlessly enough, in the multilingual, inclusive, cozy style that makes corporate greed palatable to people keeping track of such things.  Babies learning to walk adorably fall down on their well-Pampered (TM) butts as their doting parents murmur encouragement. But then, it starts to get dicey as their little bodies develop and they get into sports.

  As the orchestral soundtrack intensifies, so do the injuries. Toddlers are shown falling flat on their faces on the ice before advancing to crashing and burning on the slopes and the hockey rinks. The children in the film don't appear to be having fun. Their facial expressions run the gamut from dazed, to confused, to vacant, to tortured, to tear-streaked. But Corporate Mom is always there, washing their blistered and bloodied feet, (with P&G products) putting ice packs on their hematomas, and kissing their possible concussions all better. No emergency room visits exist in their world. It makes you wonder who's really calling the shots. Oh, I forgot. Silly me.... it's The Market, stupid!

And finally, after a resounding crescendo of patriotic pain that would make Leni Riefenstahl envious, the commercial ends with the same tinkly innocuous nursery music it started with. Hard work and branding pays off. The Will Triumphs, as the camera pans from the robust athletic spawn to Mom (TM) crying and beaming in the stands, grateful that laundry detergent brought her family to the Glorious Gold.

For more on the Capitalist Olympics, also see the latest episode of Democracy Now!

14 comments:

Pearl said...


I was surprised to find out how the U.S.advertisers have taken over the airwaves connecting their products and support for U.S. athletes. Watching it all from Canada and following our Canadian athletes, especially the ice
skaters who are my favorites, I am not aware of a similar set up. I was happy to follow the training and happy results of the figure skating pair of Virtue and Moir who won silver for their efforts and did a beautiful job on
the ice and wonder if there is a difference here about the intrusion of consumer items as well and wonder if someone in our group has a take on this.
Although I find the money invested in all the Olympics over the years of concern as well as the forceful push for perfection, it is an interesting view of what the human body is capable of and I find some of the events quite exciting and which hopefully encourage young people to learn and become involved in various sports.
Also, let us not forget that it does help open the door to better relations between countries on a common level of interest. The opening ceremonies,depicting Russian history (and air brushed for consumption) was
nevertheless a reminder of the great cultural contributions Russia (and the USSR) have offered the world in dance, music, literature, etc. It is
interesting that a number of comments from Americans criticized the sniping of some of the reporters about the country and stated that we should have
open minds about how other nations exist.
At any rate, despite the takeover of Tide, shampoos, cleaning products along
with the events, I am enjoying watching them which is a respite from the political realities for the time being. It has reminded me to get back into our warm salt water pool at my retirement set up once again. Who knows, maybe all the swimming I have done in my lifetime has kept me alive. Surely
it isn't the stress from watching my birth country disintegrating over the years.!






Pearl said...

Addition to comment:

The only channels that are showing the Olympics here in Canada are the
Canadian ones. Maybe that is why there is no intrusion of commercial
products which are supporting the athletes in the U.S.

Karen Garcia said...

Pearl,

Yes, the American coverage is different. I remember visiting family during one Olympics, and we were able to see commercial-free live broadcasts from Canada and elsewhere. Here, the most popular events are broadcast only in prime-time, after the results have been known for hours and hours.

ste-vo said...

I am unable to really focus on any of the broadcasting. I do know that Bob Costa's was really getting on my nerves with his harping on the importance of Russian culture to the USofuckingA despite our political differences. Like, really? I was not aware of that aspect of Russia; their literature, their music, their art! Locally, the NBC affiliate out of Burlington has there reporters focusing only on how the region's - VT, Adirondacks and northern NH, Olympians are experiencing their time in Sochi - heatwarming on these frigid nights!

Pearl said...


Karen: Thank you for your comment about differences between U.S. and
Canadian TV reporting. Our major two stations I get in Canada on my
subscribed set up are Federally funded to a large extent with allowances for commercials. This obviously allows them to allocate time to various issues without having to cowtow to the owners of such stations as in the U.S.
although some U.S.stations such as CNN, etc. are included in my pick.
I remember during the beginning of the Iraq war, reports between CNN and the Canadian CBC differed as if they were talking about two different events.
They even had reporters from the U.S. who were censored for opposing the invasion of Iraq invited to be interviewed as to what was really going on.
Newspapers are often privately owned and monopolized but not to the extent of the U.S. Our Toronto Star is excellent in reporting local and
international news with many columnists giving honest reports on what is happening in the U.S.

I do rely on CNN for U.S. news reporting and if I had Cable TV (HBO) could probably bring in more U.S stations. As for the current Olympic reporting, our two channels reporting events are on most of the day and evening with
detailed information about what is happening and doing an excellent job. The only commercials are for the usual local consumer products with no connection to athlete supportive comments.
Of course, I can cover the U.S. doings via my computer starting with the NYTimes. This is where the Internet can cover all bases for the entire world
which is what is allowing us to find out what is going on beyond the confines of the U.S. mentality unless threatened restrictions take place. I never thought the differences in Olympic reporting would bring up these issues to think about.





Zee said...

Winter and Summer Olympics?

All commercials, all the time.

Yawn.

I don't bother with 'em.

Noodge said...

Along with the commercialism, we have the corrupt nature of the IOC itself. The only international sporting board more corrupt would be FIFA.

It doesn't matter what your nation's record on human rights is. It doesn't matter how many people you've bombed into oblivion or ethnically cleansed. If you have the cash, baby, you'll get the games.

What I wouldn't give for voting privileges on the IOC. I'd never pay for another vacation. Or another anything, for that matter.

Television networks rake it in, as do the advertisers. Boris Nemtsov, a former Russian deputy prime minister, alleged in a report released in May that up to $30 billion has been stolen in the run-up to the games.

Just curious. How many people do you think $30 billion could have fed? Oh well. As long as their hearts swell with pride when they hear their own national anthems played at the medal ceremonies we won't have to worry about hunger prompting them to storm the Bastille.

Will said...

Quick FYI: TheIntercept.org is the first of Greenwald's new ventures. Check it out.

Zee said...

@Noodge--

In 2008 the United Nations estimated that $30B annually could end "world hunger."

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jun/23/opinion/ed-food23

Jay - Ottawa said...

@Will
Thanks for the heads-up and the link. Just took a look around and signed up for their Alerts.

Pearl said...


Noodge and Zee:

40 billion dollars is chicken feed compared to the daily amounts of money that disappear from our banking system, Congressional decisions, money printed to prop up Wall street, and on and on. So we can't afford to criticize the rest of the world. I agree that the money involved in these
massive Olympian set ups is indeed wasteful, and especially when the events are over, the structures are often left to deteriorate.
More than celebrating athletic records which puts unusual stress on the participants, it is mainly a propaganda device for the country involved in the celebrations and it is a reflection of how the various athletic organizations in our country have become financially corrupt, paying out obscene salaries to the participants and owners.

Everything is for sale these days and if I get some pleasure at watching some of the athletes in action, I am not unaware of the high costs to everyone involved. There was a series of programs these last few weeks, following the Canadian skating pair Virtue and Noir and it was very revealing. The pressure they were under to perform, knowing they were heading into the Olympics took its toll on their physical and emotional health and although they were proud of the results of their work they felt like slaves, sacrificing a normal life to get as high a medal at the
Olympics they could for their country. In fact, it is highly probable that although they are still in their twenties, they may retire after this event
and follow a less stressful life which may or may not involve ice skating.

Since it is obvious that these Olympics do not create friendships between countries as evidenced by the anti Russian sniping by U.S. and Canadian reporters, we should find a better way to celebrate and support athletic endeavors without depending on the numbers that can destroy someone's future
by tenths of seconds. More sheer enjoyment of sports should be emphasized as there have been many reports lately of the fighting and arguing at young people's games which often disrupts the activities and creates animosity. My son has been a baseball coach for many years for young people and has been appalled at the screaming and shouting by parents when they feel their child
has been unfairly treated. He was even threatened at times by furious family members when he made a decision he felt was fair to say nothing of the ugly
competitiveness between players creating animosity instead of friendship. And now that his children are older and not involved in the sports he coached, he is not unhappy to be away from that atmosphere.







Jay - Ottawa said...

“Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.”
….
“It wasn’t Hitler who started using sports as a preparation for war in Germany. It was most probably General Ludendorff. In October, 1914, a proclamation was read in all German public schools, ordering that five minutes of each recess period be devoted to running practice. The General Staff had decided that one of the reasons for the defeat on the Marne had been the inability of the German soldier to retreat fast enough. German schoolboys now had seven hours of gymnastics weekly, instead of two, as before. In 1915 the Juggendkompanien, or youth squads, were, founded, with compulsory participation for every boy over sixteen. The boys received military training camouflaged under the terms of a secret decree that said, ‘Care must be taken that these exercises appear athletic in character.’”
….
In February 1941 the US was no slouch on the sidelines:

“[T]hings began to happen. The War Department ordered a million dollars’ worth of sports equipment and set aside $2,800,000 for sports activities in general. Gene Tunney was called upon by the navy to coordinate physical education. Dr. W. M. Lewis, president of Lafayette College, made a speech urging colleges and universities to make their sports facilities available to men of draft age. There were other speeches and suggestions. D. Benedetto, president of the Amateur Athletic Union, advocated doubling the sports activities organized and controlled by the A. A. U. as “the democratic answer to the dictators’ athletic program.”
http://www.thenation.com/article/161963/sports-and-defense#

Today, the Air Force roaring over a stadium during the National Anthem, military drill teams performing on the field at half-time and the mutual exchange of concussions and torn limbs among the players should not be interpreted as the militarization of sport.

Pearl said...


Jay@

That was an interesting article from The Nation you recommended which shows the military involvement of sports activities for military purposes among
various nations. I wonder what it cost to have all that military pomp and circumstance at the
Super Bowl which no doubt could have been used to improve athletic equipment and space for a large number of neglected schools.
I hope your last statement was sarcastic, Jay, as your description of the above event was indeed proof of military involvement and support for well paid star players at important highly photographed events.





Jay - Ottawa said...

@Pearl

"I hope your last statement was sarcastic, Jay....'

Purity of heart lies beyond my reach. So it has been for a long time.

At the same time, the term ‘sarcastic’ implies a coarse insult directed at an individual. The term is much too obstreperous for a gentle (some say weak) soul like me. I could never do such a thing, not even to a jerk, troll, narcissist or s.o.b.

I would much prefer to go down as ‘sardonic’ –– you know, lots of futile head shaking and, when really provoked, railing against unreason with nothing more than solemn nose thumbing and what occasionally passes as a touch of dark humor.