Sponsors of the Olympics are walking a tightrope ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics next month as worsening geopolitical tensions force them to consider downplaying their involvement without upsetting China, CNN reported.
Political fervour in the US reached a high last month as the White House called for a diplomatic boycott of the Games, a statement against human rights abuses that Washington has accused Beijing of perpetuating in the country's western Xinjiang region.
That's added to pressure on companies such as Coca-Cola, Intel, Visa and Airbnb, which in recent months have faced calls to cut ties with the event because of Xinjiang, the report said.
Some politicians have accused businesses of undermining the ability of their home countries to send a clear message to Beijing through diplomatic boycotts. Critics also question the value of sponsoring an event that won't be selling tickets to the public due to pandemic curbs.
But corporate executives have few good options as they are pulled between the world's two largest economies. Stay silent, and risk alienating consumers in places like the US. Pull back, and potentially damage their prospects in the vast Chinese market, CNN reported.
International companies are familiar with the risks. Last year, Nike H&M and other Western brands faced a boycott in China because of a stand they took against the alleged use of forced labor in Xinjiang. The sensitivities leave companies treading on thin ice, according to Dipanjan Chatterjee, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester in charge of brand strategy.
He described the upcoming Games as "an upside-down Olympics."
"This is a very, very unusual year," Chatterjee told CNN Business. "Typically at this time of the year, you know, all the brands are all agog with excitement because the Olympics is right around the corner ... Instead, what you've found is that they've retreated into their shells."