Client: Beijing Olympic Bid Committee
PR Team: Weber Shandwick Worldwide, Bell Pottinger (London)
Campaign: Bringing the Olympics to Beijing
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
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.