Beijing Olympics: Let the Marketing Begin
Scott Kronick (Managing Director, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide in China)
(This article originally appeared in the September 27, 2003 issue of South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and is reproduced here with permission from the publisher)
To the several hundred participants in the banqueting hall of a Beijing hotel at the beginning of this month, there was no doubting the role the 2008 Olympics would play for Beijing, and for China as a whole. "[It is] a unique brand with strong vitality and great value," said Liu Qi, a Central Committee Politburo member and president of the Beijing organising committee for the games.
Mr Liu stressed that the Olympics provided a "broader perspective" for Chinese companies and access to a new and vibrant market for foreign companies.
Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said the games would "open the gates to the future" for China and provide a unique opportunity for companies to "build brands and market share". The games would be a catalyst for companies to "realise the full potential of the China market".
This was the language that filled the launch of the marketing plan for the 2008 Olympics. The morning was replete with speeches that captured the power of what the Olympics means to China and to local and foreign companies prepared to invest in it.
And unlike ceremonies of the past involving the Chinese government and foreign entities, there was no hint of any underlying messages. Speakers, both foreign and Chinese, talked about the prospects: a new Beijing, a model Olympics, an opening up, and a celebration of humanity.
I have lived in Beijing for eight years and I am optimistic about the way Beijing, and China in general, will make progress towards a greater openness. And I am hopeful that the Olympics will be a force for good for China.
From the moment Beijing first launched its bid, winning the right to host the 2008 Olympics was not about sport or business opportunities for China. It was about national pride and dignity. It was about creating a superbrand called China, and the essence of that brand is progress. For brands associated with the 2008 Olympics, they will be seen as part of China's progress. It transcends sport itself.
For local brands, the games are an opportunity to enter the international arena and show the world what they are truly capable of. It will provide an international stage like no other. And for international brands, there is no better chance to show commitment to China while building their presence in the process.
As for the companies which have already signed up - Coca-Cola, Kodak and Swatch, to name but three - they already know this. And if you look at their performance in China, they are already well aware of the importance of it all.
The marketing launch was for those companies still to commit. Their representatives, both local and foreign, were out in force. According to the IOC, sponsorship interest is at an all-time high for the Beijing games. Whether it is to build a local brand on the global stage, to root a foreign brand more firmly in the market or to link with the brand values of the Olympics - hope, dreams and aspirations - the 2008 Beijing Olympics promises to be like no other for the marketing men and women. It is one of the most important events in China from a marketing point of view.
I suspect there will be a brand Olympics running in parallel with the real Olympics, which will demand just as much careful thought and preparation.
For those doing business in China, the real games began on September 1. "Faster, higher, stronger" is the motto of the Olympics - and it promises to be the same for brands that are part of the playing field.