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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Feng Bing, a 35-year-old Beijing resident, said he cannot say with certainty which athlete is working for which company.

"Liu Xiang has endorsed many brands," said Feng, who is a fan of football, basketball, tennis and racing. "What I can remember was from Yili, Amway and Coca-Cola. But I don't think I ever bought something from a company because it was endorsed by a celebrity."

Asked about Li Na, Feng said he wasn't certain if she is a spokeswomen for Visa, saying he knew she had endorsed Kunlunshan - a Chinese brand of mineral water.

Zhang Qing, CEO of the Beijing-based Key Solution consulting firm, said companies' attempts to market products in China as part of this year's London Olympics might not be as effective as similar campaigns that went on during the 2008 Beijing Games.

For one, China was the host of the 2008 Games, making it more likely that the Chinese would pay close attention to the event that year. This year, the sponsors cannot count on having such a following in the country.

As a result, their attempts to sell products in China will generally be regarded by the public as being indistinguishable from the routine marketing campaigns that big companies conduct during international sports events.

"(They are) not special at all," he added.

Second, the Chinese people's attitudes toward sports tournaments and athletic achievements have changed greatly since 2008. The fans themselves have become more objective and sophisticated and tend to give athletes and teams credit for working hard rather than only for winning medals.

Will such marketing plans be effective? It's difficult to say.

"For my part, I think P&G's Thank You Mom program - concentrating on the heroes behind celebrities and on mothers' affection for ordinary people, might be effective," said Zhou.

Zhang also noted that London clocks run seven hours behind those in China, a fact that might hinder the Worldwide Partners' marketing work.

"The number of people in China seeing live broadcasts will noticeably decrease compared with what was seen in the 2008 Games and the promotional effect will be smaller," he said.

He said more marketing may take place on new media such as websites, videos and micro blogs.

Coca-Cola, as part of its Olympic marketing campaign in China, has written a song for Chinese Olympic athletes and will invite ordinary Chinese to sing it and upload versions of it to the company's website. It then plans to remix the various versions and produce an anthem in support of the Chinese team.

"This year's campaign is rooted in the collaborative work and effort of every citizen to create a song of support," said David G. Brooks, Coca-Cola president for Greater China and Korea.

Market survey company Ipsos SA recently conducted an online survey that asked respondents which Olympic Worldwide Partner they could first call to mind. Fifty-one percent said Coca-Cola, 31 percent said Samsung, 19 percent said Lenovo, and 11 percent said Acer.

When the respondents were furnished with a list of the brands in the program and asked the same question, 66 percent of them said Coca-Cola, 52 percent said Samsung, 39 percent said Lenovo, and 30 percent said Acer.

The survey was specifically designed to gauge the marketing campaigns associated with the London Games. It was carried out in February and received responses from 1,050 netizens.

Albert Cai, digital research director of Ipsos China, said Olympic marketing can do much to burnish a brand's image, but won't take effect overnight.

"A company should combine its Olympic marketing package with a corporate long-term marketing strategy," he said.

Coca-Cola has been a partner of the International Olympic Committee since 1928. Zhou Gang attributed those long-standing close ties to Coca-Cola's marketing techniques, which change in accordance with current trends.

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Marketeers try to go distance with Games

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