BEIJING (NEXSTAR) — In a normal Olympic year, the coverage of the games on NBC is filled with ads from sponsors touting their partnership. Not so much this year.

Companies including NBC, Coca Cola, Visa and Procter & Gamble all spend big money to become Olympic sponsors.

“In what is an ever-more cluttered market, it’s not easy for companies to find a message or platform to connect and resonate with the worldwide consumer base. And if you’re a global marketeer, the Olympics provides a very, very powerful platform,” Michael Payne, former director of marketing for the International Olympic Committee and now owner of his own marketing company, said.

These are complicated times for sponsors and the problem is twofold. The first problem, of course, is the pandemic.

“The sponsors are severely challenged in activating their programs in the middle of a COVID worldwide pandemic,” Payne said.

With the games being held in China, the second issue is optics. With China accused of human rights atrocities against the minority Uyghur people, President Joe Biden announced a diplomatic boycott of the games.

That matters in politics. Not so much at the actual games.

“The politicians decide not to go — I think at the IOC, nobody is losing any sleep over that,” Jack said.

But human rights advocates have called for sponsors to pull out and for consumers to boycott those who don’t.

“The buildup to every games always magnifies the social, political issues of the day,” Payne said. “The media focus on the Olympics give the oxygen for all of these issues to be brought forward and debated. That may not be a bad thing.

“But I think, importantly, once the games start, as we see with every games, the focus turns 99.9% to the athletes, to the sport, and that’s how every games is then remembered.”