Times Square: a Lunar hotspot?

Updated: 2015-02-09 06:17

By NIU YUE in New York(China Daily USA)

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Times Square: a Lunar hotspot?

Zhang Qiyue (left), consul general of China in New York, and Miguel Patricio, global chief marketing officer of AB Inbev, join Budweiser's Toast to Dreams in Times Square in New York on Feb 7. Lu Huiquan / for China Daily 

Red clothes, lion dance and celebrities reading out people's Lunar New Year wishes. It is not on a Chinese television channel, but on Times Square in New York. It is not for Asian population in the city, but more for marketing in China.

As the event by American's beer manufacturer Budweiser was ongoing on Saturday night, a giant LED screen on One Times Square was showing its Chinese-language advertisement themed "Toast to Dreams," which displayed dozens of dreams Budweiser had collected in related marketing campaigns in China, from travelling to Taiwan province to finding a relationship.

Lunar New Year to China is just as important as Christmas to Western countries, and businesses usually launch marketing campaigns to boost visibility for China's own holiday season. Since January 2011, when Chinese government debuted its promo video on Times Square, businesses with Chinese operations have been setting aside some budget for Times Square around the Lunar New Year period.

"We believe it is the crossroad of the world... and we think it would be the perfect way to honor Chinese consumers to say how happy we are with China and Chinese heritage, and American heritage as well," said Miguel Patricio, global chief marketing officer of AB Inbev, Budweiser's parent company.

Budweiser has not been alone in marketing towards Chinese customers through Times Square. On Jan 29, Pepsi launched its "Take Joy Home" campaign. Similar to Budweiser's, it collects moments of participants with their families and encourages the younger generation to stay away from their mobile phones. Pepsi would select some of these moments and make it into a "crowd-sourced" movie and air it on a LED screen at the Times Square.

"It is the first time that our campaign has gone out of China... we want every Chinese [around the world] could participate and take joy back home together," said Richard Lee, Pepsi China's chief marketing officer in a statement.

The prestige of the Times Square is enough to hit headlines in China, and it also means direct outreach to Chinese tourists and even stirs their national pride. Over 740,000 from Chinese mainland visited the Big Apple last year. "I am so surprised that Budweiser is doing marketing at the Times Square," said Yang Tengfei, a Chinese student now studying in the United States. "It shows that China is strong."

Around the Lunar New Year in 2014, Tsingtao Beer made advertisements at the Square. The same with Li Daimo and Wu Chomou, two singers who rose to fame through the Voice of China in 2013 and Chinese pianist Lang Lang rang the bell of Nasdaq, which was broadcast live through the Nasdaq's giant screen at the Times Square on the Lunar New Year's Eve in 2012.

Such moves have been endorsed by Chinese government. "I think this shows that the Chinese New Year is not the holiday that Chinese people celebrated, but it is also celebrated in the United States and," said Zhang Qiyue, consul general of China in New York. "They want to share their products with Chinese, and they want to promote the culture to get a better understanding between Chinese people and people of the world."

Over 300,000 pedestrians enter the Times Square Bowtie every day on average, with another 115,000 moving over the area by car or by bus, according to the Times Square District Management Association. Although Budweiser's advertisement is largely Chinese, the Budweiser logo is still English, and the red lanterns and firecrackers on the screen are enough for people to associate with the Chinese Lunar New Year, said Ulysses Placencia, who was walking past the square.

Lu Huiquan in New York contributed to this report.