Marketeers try to go distance with Games

Updated: 2012-06-27 09:57

By Liu Jie and Li Woke (China Daily)

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Both the International Olympic Committee and the Worldwide Partners, including Dow, declined to disclose the cost of taking part in the TOP program, but insiders estimate it is as much as $80 million for a single company. That's based on an analysis that found that Lenovo Group Ltd spent $65 million in 2008 to obtain TOP authorization, and that the cost of getting one usually increases by between 15 and 20 percent from one Games to the next.

Sykes said Dow is the only one of this year's Olympic Worldwide Partners from the chemical industry. The company is seeking to use the program to promote the idea that chemical technology not only pertains to science but also to people's daily lives.

"As a B2B (business-to-business) company, it (an Olympic sponsorship) is the best, easiest and most visible way to lift our brand recognition," Sykes said.

"Dow has a long-term vision for the sponsorship and is eyeing the huge and long-term opportunities that exist in the Chinese market," said Liu Yan from the Beijing-based Nuomei Space Brand Consulting Co Ltd. "The purpose of this is to use an Olympic sponsorship to demonstrate the company's strength in the sports industry. But it will take time to see results."

P&G, for its part, is a newcomer to the TOP program and is therefore moving in a different direction.

It is using the opportunity to forge closer ties with buyers and to strengthen the association that exists in their minds between P&G and its internationally well-known brands: Pantene, Rejoice, Head & Shoulders, Safeguard, Olay, Pampers, Crest, Duracell and Gillette.

The nine brands are taking part in their parent company's Olympic marketing campaign - Thank You Mom - which is meant to honor "the unsung hero behind every athlete".

"P&G is in the business of helping moms," said Marc Pritchard, P&G global marketing and brand building officer.

"Through our Thank You Mom program, we will support not just the moms of Olympic athletes, but every mom who does whatever it takes to make her child's life the best it can be."

Liu Yan had similar thoughts.

"P&G is emphasizing the warm and soft side of life, in contrast to the strong, persistent and passionate nature of sports," he said. "I don't think this marketing strategy is much different from what the company does routinely. But this time, P&G is putting the spotlight on its corporate image instead of its sub-brands. Will this be for the best? Only time will tell."

Celebrity endorsement

P&G's sub-brands will also sponsor athletes in China, and they will be featured in advertising and retail campaigns.

Gillette plans to sponsor the Chinese "badminton superman" Lin Dan, and Crest has appointed He Wenna, who won a gold medal in the women's trampoline competition at the 2008 Games as its celebrity endorsement. Most of the Worldwide Partners, if not all, are using endorsements from sports celebrities in their marketing.

Coca-Cola, meanwhile, has started its own London Olympics' campaign entitled Move to the Beat, which in China is being called China Beat. It has also signed contracts with five world champions and Olympic champions, including 110-meter hurdles Olympic gold medalist Liu Xiang.

Elsewhere, Visa has selected the Chinese tennis French Open winner Li Na to form a Visa team with swimming champion Michael Phelps, pole-vault champion Yelena Isinbaeva and other international sports stars as a part of its Olympic marketing campaign, Go World.

"These Olympic Worldwide Partners attach a great deal of importance to the Chinese market, and are doing their best to provide local people, in their enthusiasm for local sports players, with what they want," said Zhou Gang, an independent analyst of the sports business.