CAMPAIGNS: Global PR - WSW drives China 2008 Olympic bid

Client: Beijing Olympic Bid Committee

PR Team: Weber Shandwick Worldwide, Bell Pottinger (London)

Campaign: Bringing the Olympics to Beijing

Timescale: January-July

Budget: Up to £1.4m

Last year Beijing was picked for the final list of five countries to

compete for the right to host the 2008 Olympics.

Although China's impending entry into the World Trade Organisation and

position of growing importance for Western businesses means it is taking

a greater role in world politics, human rights issues created

controversy around the bid.

Securing the games meant influencing the 124 International Olympic

Committee members across the globe.


The winning city had to demonstrate the infrastructure to mount the

games; sophisticated enough technology to meet media requirements; the

support of its people; and the commitment to invest in building whatever

is needed to host the games.

Strategy and Plan

It was decided the primary message would concern all the changes that

had been made to Beijing to attract the Games.

The team couldn't avoid politics completely, particularly with incidents

such as the US spy plane incident and reports of political imprisonment

occurring during the campaign. So it took the line that the global

scrutiny hosting the Olympics would attract would serve to improve

China's human rights.

The third message point played on the fact that the Olympic Charter is

to 'bring the benefits of sport to the world' - that it was about time

that China's citizens got to play in the biggest game of all.

Choosing to concentrate on the two regions where most opposition to the

bid was detected, the campaign was run jointly by WSW in New York and

Bell Pottinger's sports division e.sp in London (PRWeek, 20 July). e.sp

hosted press trips to China to persuade the media to focus less on human

rights issues and more on how the Olympics would help the country.

The campaign made use of endorsements from leading figures in sports and

politics to attest to the positive changes in Beijing as a result of the

bid. The luckiest break on this front was the Dalai Lama's statement in

May that he approved of the games going to Beijing 'if they accelerate

societal change'.

The endorsements fed the huge media relations effort, generating letters

to newspapers, op-eds, and an e-mail campaign to 750 members of the

media and other opinion formers.

It was felt crucial to gain the backing of Olympic athletes in appealing

to the IOC.

Supporters included sprinter Olympic 400m champion Cathy Freeman.

The support of the Humane Society and the US/China Environmental Fund

was enlisted to confirm that Beijing had pledged billions of dollars to

an environmental clean-up, showing the bid as the catalyst for that


Mike Holtzman, WSW New York senior V-P of public affairs, used his

contacts (he was public affairs advisor to expresident Clinton's trade

ambassador Charlene Barshefsky) to mount a counter movement to Senators

Tom Lantos and Jessie Helms' resolution opposing the bid on human rights


Measurement and Evaluation

Billions of media covered WSW's and e.sp's messages, but, most

importantly, Beijing secured the Games.


Holtzman is to go to Beijing to negotiate a deal with the Chinese

Olympic Organising Committee. The focus will be attracting investment in

the games and heading off boycotts.

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