The Real Olympic Games: Sponsorship, Schools and the Olympics – the Case of Coca-Cola

Annette Coburn, Patricia McCafferty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Corporate influences on educational systems throughout the globe are yielding a host a intended and unintended consequences. While some educational systems welcome the participation of corporations and some even model how they operate after various corporate models, we argue there are serious calls for concern. Nowhere is the influence of corporations on school-based education more visible and more misunderstood than during the Olympics. As we move towards the Rio Olympics in 2016,this article draws on empirical work about school-based enterprise education in the run-up to the London Games in 2012. This helps us to consider the impact of school-business partnerships, by focusing on a critique of corporate sponsorship to make visible the hidden legacy of the Coca-Cola Company’s interest in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in previous games, particularly during the London 2012. The article examines the role (and control) of corporate sponsors in reaching school- aged young people through enterprise education that appear to advance the ‘corporate capture of childhood’(Beder, 2009)in ways that are hitherto under-researched. Drawing on Bakan’s (2005, pp. 1-2) notion of duality in relation to the corporation as a (positively portrayed) person, yet legally obliged to pursue self-interest in generating profit, the article suggests the Olympics as the ultimate branding prize, the real legacy of which is often masked and misunderstood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-40
JournalTaboo: The Journal of Culture and Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


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