Coke hits Olympic stage with its global message

BEIJING: Coca-Cola's PR and marketing efforts for the Beijing Olympics, called the Live Olympic campaign, began nearly two years ago and have focused on reaching out to Olympics fans, both at the Games and abroad.

BEIJING: Coca-Cola's PR and marketing efforts for the Beijing Olympics, called the Live Olympic campaign, began nearly two years ago and have focused on reaching out to Olympics fans, both at the Games and abroad.

Coke intends the highlight of its on-site marketing to be the Shuang Experience Center on the Olympic Green near the National Stadium, which was scheduled to open August 8, the day of the opening ceremonies, according to Petro Kacur, senior manager of marketing communications at the Atlanta-based soft-drink giant.

The 13,000-plus-square-foot center, which is expected to get more than a quarter million visitors, highlights the company's CSR projects and its history with the Olympics. It features a multimedia, consumer-generated exhibit, as well as Coke's products.

Kacur said the center will also be used to host Coke's other outreach efforts, many of which are the culmination of its Olympic campaigns, including a film premiere of "environmental champions," in which the company solicited student filmmakers to shoot a documentary about the environmental accomplishments of several Olympic torchbearers.

"That's a way we're leveraging our sponsorship to communicate with real stakeholders," Kacur said of the center.

Olympic sponsors have worked for years on PR efforts leading up to the much-anticipated Beijing Games. When the opening ceremonies kicked off, Coke, like others, expected to use host events and media outreach to continue to cement their messages.

For non-ticket-holders, Coke created Shuang Zones at two other Beijing locations - one in a park and one retail market, The Place, which includes a Las Vegas-like display of a 20-ton Coke bottle under a massive LED sky screen. Both opened just a week prior to the Games.

"That is an engaging way to reach young people and others that [can't] attend [the Games]," Kacur said.

He also noted that the large press contingent gathering in Beijing is a key target. More than 4 billion people are predicted to follow the Games on TV, with others likely to do so online and on mobile devices.

Coke opened its media lounge, located near the International Broadcast Center, and is working with its agency Manning Selvage & Lee to provide stories that are "beyond the sports angle - the human interest, [and] why companies sponsor the Olympic Games," Kacur added.

Coke, an Olympic sponsor since 1928 and consistently present in the Chinese marketplace since 1979, focused its campaigns on a global audience, promoting what it sees as the ability to connect people around the world to an event, he said.

One example is WE8, where eight Chinese artists paired with eight musicians from around the world to create eight bottle designs that are matched with a song.

"All are developed to appeal to people, regardless of where they live," said Kacur. "[The campaigns] can be just as successful in China as [they] would be in Argentina."

Another example is the Design the World a Coke campaign, where consumers can design their own bottle online and people the world over can collaborate on design.

"We've got a lot of stakeholders we are trying to reach through our programs," he added. "We want there to be an association between the brand and the Games. We want consumers to walk away remembering the good feelings... of the Games, following this wherever they are around the world. That's the main audience."

The PR team for Visa, an Olympic sponsor since 1986, also opened its Games efforts well in advance, working with Fleishman-Hillard on PR efforts. During the Olympics, it will host many events and continue media relations.

Albert Coscia, global PR head at Visa, said it expects to host 10 to 15 events during the Games, as well as work with "the daily volume of news we will generate around the globe." Its PR team has opened its press office, with staffers managing the various programs and activities that will occur over the next few weeks. Visa will also host the "handover" party in London, host city of the 2012 Games, later this month.

Visa's PR efforts in the US began with a media summit this February and, in 2007, with a goodwill tour in China, which featured Olympians Michael Phelps and Katie Hoff.

"The intent is to get out... well in advance of the Games," Coscia said. "We wanted to raise awareness."

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