THINKPIECE: How to ensure that the 2008 Beijing Games are agold-medal event, not an Olympic flop

The Olympic movement and the marketing surrounding it has traveled

light years in the 17 years since the Los Angeles Games - the first

Olympiad that relied almost exclusively on corporate funding and

support.



To say that the Games in the capital city of the most powerful Communist

republic left in the world is wrought with potential pitfalls and

uncertainty is an under-statement. The overarching and most obvious of

all is the impassioned debate about China's human rights abuses and how

it might impact the Games and the sponsors' brand. But other significant

hurdles, such as the time difference between China and the US, and the

sophistication of the Chinese marketplace also exist.



Since Beijing is unlikely to allow anything to hinder a successful

Games, the opportunities for global marketers will depend on their

ability to:



1. Inoculate their brand from being tarnished by controversy. This can

be done by creating a cohesive, global vision, a reason for being in

these Games for all the stake-holders. To be sure, the risks are greater

during these Games than they were in Sydney or Atlanta, but companies

can distance themselves from the human rights issue by putting forth a

message of leadership and social responsibility.



2. Personalize the brand experience in the China market. Make sure

Olympic marketing components grasp local consumer interests and customs.

While the Olympic movements remain the same, the experience of each

quadrennium provides its own legacy. Global sponsors need to be tuned

into local markets.



3. Appeal to youth. Local market nuances and culture notwithstanding,

Generation Y represents the first truly global marketplace. Technology

is a key driver - and today's 11-year-olds will be 18 when the torch is

lit for Beijing 2008.



4. Embrace the Olympic ideals. Even with the surrounding complexities

with China, the global unity and pursuit of excellence embodied by the

world's most dedicated athletes is still a nonpareil opportunity to line

up with a brand's values.



These Olympics will enable marketers to make deep inroads into China and

will hasten the learning curve as they tailor marketing programs to a

new and previously untried playing field. No matter who takes the gold

on the track or who breaks new world records, it is clear that companies

who have been salivating to immerse themselves in the most populous

country in the world will come out as winners in Beijing.



Mark Curran is managing director, global marketing practice at Ogilvy

Public Relations Worldwide. He represented IOC Marketing from 1994 to

1998.



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