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
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
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