Little Emperors

Thursday, February 28, 2008

All roads lead to Beijing this August. As China gears up to showcase its mettle at the 2008 Olympic Games, marketers are salivating at the thought of how to make hay, while players sweat it out in the sun!

“13” may not be considered a lucky number for some, but July 13, 2001 has turned out to be a lucky date for marketers worldwide. On this day, Beijing celebrated being awarded the 2008 Olympic Games. With the games just round the corner now, both marketers and media are going into frenzy. It is a great moment for China and marketers everywhere. It is also China’s way of showcasing to the world what it really is.

Pride of China

“Olympics-in-Beijing” is a unique combination and is breaking all records. First, China won the bid with flying colours garnering 56 votes, compared to 22 for Toronto, 18 for Paris and 9 for Istanbul. This was possible because of “a combination of good sports concept with complete government support.” For the Chinese, it is one of the “first real reasons for a celebration after many years!” Second, a record number of 54 sponsors have associated themselves with the game, and more are expected to join in. Olympics is the greatest sporting event of the world and this year it is going to be hosted by the largest economy of the world. This could turn out to be the biggest Olympic Games ever. “There are going to be 4.5 billion viewers looking at Beijing & China with amazement,” says Brian Perkins, VP of Johnson & Johnson (J&J), after signing the sponsorship deal for the Beijing Olympics. Come to think of it, J&J never bothered about being an Olympic sponsor before this!

Nearly 1.3 billion consumers & GDP growth of 11% last year, China’s economy is red-hot and has marketers salivating at the thought of this opportunity to target China’s huge middle class. Those who had once kept away from the event, are finding it the best place to put their moolah in now.

One Game One Dream

China has coined the logo for the game, “One World One Dream,” which is expected to draw 8,00,000 foreign visitors and one million domestic visitors of Beijing, and also hoards of foreign brands. This is one opportunity nobody wants to miss. GE has already launched an Olympic-themed billboard campaign in China. McDonald’s is using this opportunity to expand its outlets in China from 750 to 1000 units. For Lenovo, the world’s No.3 PC maker, China is its home market and Olympics – a huge opportunity. So its launched a unique limited-edition notebook PC, which would feature its winning design for the Olympic torch. This design of the torch for the Olympics was chosen out of 300 submissions and was a moment of great pride for Lenovo. This was their way of establishing that they were among the best designers – and that too on the world stage. Lu Ning, one of China’s sportswear retailers is planning to open more stores. In fact, the sporting goods market of China is expected to grow by over 23% this year. Adidas expects its China sales to exceed ¤1 billion by 2010.

Sintex Industries, the largest plastic manufacturer in India, would be chipping in too. Together with PolyJohn International, they would supply the Beijing Olympics with portable toilets. China happens to be Coke’s fourth largest market and is going berserk this time. When Beijing was awarded the games in 2001, Coca Cola’s Beijing plant came out with 30,000 golden covered bottles which read “Our Congratulations on the Olympics.” It was also the first authorised user of the Beijing Olympics logo. It has even designed a new Coke bottle and logo just for the games, using Chinese design elements like clouds and kites. Not surprising then, that in the increasingly crowded Chinese market where standing out is becoming a problem, Coca-Cola was voted by the Chinese people as the most popular Olympic sponsor of the year.

Volkswagen China Group put in $100 million in cash and kind to win the bid in the hotly contested car category. Hyatt and JW Marriott are opening hotels in Beijing. Everybody even remotely connected with the games is flocking to China. A survey done by the US-China Business Council found that 83 of the 100 US firms were profitable last year in China. It pays to come to China, and this time – what a dream destination it will be for companies & customers alike.

Ambush Marketing

Advertising at the Olympics is not going to come cheap. To become an official sponsor or even to advertise on TV you would need deep pockets. China Central Television reportedly has collected $10 billion in biddings for advertising slots during the games. Air China has paid $5 million for one of the top slots (for August). Analysts predict that as much as $5 billion would be spent on advertisements and TV show sponsorships.

A study shows that 68% of Chinese sports fans were more likely to buy brands that sponsor the Olympic Games than those that don’t. No wonder deep pockets or not, a whole lot of companies would find innovative ways to ingeniously associate themselves with the event. Nike, not an official sponsor of the game (Adidas is the official sponsor), is an expert in ambush marketing. In 1996, it set up a “Nike Village” just near the Atlanta Olympic Village and with its slogan, “Stone’s throw away” strategically placed around the main stadiums, grabbed the spotlight from Adidas. In 2000 Sydney Olympics, Qantas Airlines used the slogan “The Sprit of Australia,” which sounded similar to the Game’s slogan, “Share the Spirit.” This time Nike used Liu Xiang, one of China’s biggest sports celebrity. When he broke the world record in a competition, Nike made him a T-shirt featuring his 12:88 second time. He wore thes T-shirt as he stepped off the plane when he reached home.

Nike is today perceived as the company most associated with Olympics. Li Ning (sports clothing) and Mengniu (dairy products) are two other companies voted as the most popular Olympic sponsors in China. None of them is actually a sponsor!

Whether you become the official sponsor of the “Game” or not, whether you have the money to showcase your ad on TV during August when the games will be played, it’s time to get thinking. It’s time for some intelligent marketing & advertising ideas. This time China, once a third world country, is going to stand proudly wearing the Olympic crown, proving to the world that it can give competition to super-powers like USA. It’s going all out to make the most of this opportunity. China will spend $200 billion on the games this year.

The Olympics would give a boost of $3 billion to the global advertising world. Some 300 million people would be watching key programmes in China. If there is one country you should be in – it’s China. This is your chance to make a place for your brand in this growing market.

Look at it this way, with more than 100 million customers in the age group of 18-28, what better market could companies ask for. It’s the right target audience for a whole lot of companies. So start working on your strategies. Do all you can to attract millions of these young affluent customers – these little emperors!