“The Olympics cultivate a particularly powerful feeling in us,” says Americus Reed, a Wharton marketing professor. “It transcends any affiliation to a particular sport or event. It appeals to our sense of national pride. We connect with the athletes. There’s something about being the very best on the planet that speaks to us. These are not athletes who are making millions of dollars — most of them, at least. They’re just like us: regular people with an Olympic dream.

“You can understand why companies want to connect with that feeling,” he adds. “But the question they need to address is: What is the purpose of sponsorship?”

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