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Russia’s Olympic ban won’t move the needle one way or another

Russia being banned won't have much of an effect on the business of the Olympics.

The 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Korea have a multitude of issues. Hotel inventory is a concern, ticket sales are not where they were expected to be. There’s a security concern because of North Korean hostilities. Now add another issue, Russia has been banned from the 2018 Olympic Games.

Business wise it won’t really move the needle. NBC doesn’t care much about whether Russia is banned or not. They own domestic television rights in the United States. The fact that Russia is banned doesn’t do much for U.S. viewers. They will still be chanting U.S.A. if someone from America is going for the gold. This doesn’t affect storytelling that much either. The casual viewer isn’t going to know many Russian Olympians anyways.

If the viewer did know the Russian athlete, that’s fine. Russians can still compete if they are cleared by the IOC. They simply can’t wear Russian colors or carry the flag. They will essentially be independents. There is a threat of a Russian boycott, but even that seems hollow. It simply doesn’t matter. Fans will find a new rival. NBC will build up some other sort of sports enemy. Viewership shouldn’t take a dramatic hit. NBC should be more concerned about the problem with timing and tape delays. They’ll have a greater effect than whether a Russian is going head to head with a U.S. athlete.

Sponsors and partners may lose some global exposure in Russia, but their activations and official Olympic sponsorships will still be seen by the United States, China, Japan, and almost every other market. The key is brand exposure and perception. It’s much better to be associated with a clean Olympic Games than it is to be associated with a dirty/doped Olympic Games. The IOC also benefits from taking a strong stance. This will enhance the groups brand that has taken some shots over the past few games.

So Russia is out the Winter Olympics, but their athletes are still allowed to compete. Commercially and businesswise it won’t have that great of an effect. People don’t care who their country beats, as long as they win. There are bigger issues for the business of the Olympics than one country being banned.

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