Olympic sponsors are using a variety of creative tactics to maximize their investment.
Olympic worldwide partner McDonald's is using its "Champion Kids" program as a global platform to promote exercise and health. Up to 300 kids are being recruited to serve as Olympic brand ambassadors for the fast-food restaurant chain.
Starting August 9, children will be provided with transportation to the Games, and invited to events, to visit the Olympic Village, and to be involved in post-medals ceremonies created by the brand to honor Olympic athletes.
The program's purpose is to have kids from different parts of the world report back to their home countries and have their experiences interacting with Olympic athletes motivate other children to be active and engage families in positive ways, says Dean Barrett, SVP of global marketing at McDonald's.
The program is supported by longtime partner GolinHarris, as well as the marketing and promotions agency RPMC, which will focus on family groups and other resources to help spread the word about the program.
With approximately 431,000 restaurants worldwide, McDonald's engages customers on a grassroots level, catering to their needs by factoring cultural standards into franchises around the world, explains Barrett.
With this in mind, McDonald's is seeking to extend the healthy perception of its brand by presenting children, many of whom have ties to local media outlets, as spokespeople.
This campaign developed from the "Champion Kids" program executed for soccer's 2006 World Cup in Germany, where kids escorted players onto the field in an effort to show how sports impact children's lives.
While the application process to become a Champion Kid varies according to the region, Barrett emphasizes that bringing McDonald's to local communities and encouraging children to become more active transcends global barriers.
"McDonald's has great relationships with people around the world and the brand has [the] capability to bring life to those cities," he notes. "'Champion Kids' is unique to countries; unique in their wants, needs, and desires."
Computer manufacturer Lenovo faced some initial controversy as the official designer and co-sponsor of the 2008 Torch Relay. With its worldwide sponsorship, however, the company is set to extend brand recognition on a more positive note.
Lenovo's equipment will be utilized on more than 30,000 components from scoreboards to on-site Internet lounges. In addition, consumer interest will be built on the fact that if Lenovo can effectively support the Beijing Games, it can definitely provide competitive technology to consumers and businesses, says Bob Page, program director for Lenovo corporate communications.
With the support of Ketchum, the Chinese company is trying to reach a more global market through outreach to international press, with tours of its global headquarters and technological support, as well as promotion centered on its sponsored athletes.
Through the international "Lenovo Champions" program, the team will target local markets through home-grown athletes, who address Lenovo brand messaging and programs, like the Torch Relay, to local media.
Lenovo Champions of note include Australian swimmer Eamon Sullivan and Japanese track and field athlete Shingo Suetsugu.
"These athletes were chosen because they represent geographic diversity, are extremely aggressive competitors, and innovators in athletic competition," says Page. "They represent the same kinds of values and attributes as Lenovo."
These athletes, in addition to 60 other Olympic hopefuls, will blog throughout the Games on the Lenovo Podium platform, which enables fans to learn more about their favorite athletes.
Also, consumers can further interact with the brand through its product showcase on the Olympic Green and the philanthropic notebook campaign, which provides the chance to bid on a one-of-a-kind device, signed by local celebrities or Lenovo champions, until the August 8 start of the Games.
"Outside of China, Lenovo is less well-known," says Page. "This kind of partnership is ideal to launch the brand on a global basis."
Reason to cheer
In addition to its role as official bank sponsor, Bank of America is backing the 2008 US Olympic Team via its "America's Cheer" campaign. The effort is rallying consumers to come together and express their support for their favorite athletes - whether from the stands at Beijing or in their homes in the US.
Launched this spring, "America's Cheer" is a viral-based effort that enables fans to support Team USA by logging on to americascheer.com and partner sites YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook.
Consumers can add videos, photographs, and text messages through this virtual cheering section, enabling both athletes and fans to link in and connect to each other, says Joe Goode, SVP of media relations for BoA.
"America's Cheer is an opportunity for our customers to engage in an emotional and spirited way with our brand and products" through the lens of the Olympics, he adds.
Ketchum Sports Network is providing PR support for the campaign together with its sister agency Emanate, which is BoA's AOR.
"America's Cheer" will also employ other tangible ways for consumers to have hands-on interaction with the brand through a 19-city mobile tour that will feature some of the 12 BoA-sponsored athletes in the "Hometown Hopefuls" program.
For example, in the Cheer Capture room, visitors will be able to record messages to the Olympic athletes. The Athlete Connection kiosk will allow people to determine which of the Hometown Hopefuls athletes they are most like.
Those athletes will be blogging about their experiences during the Games. In addition, the BoA PR team has provided flip cameras to the athletes and their families so they can upload pictures and video to the Web site during the Games.
A showcase for imagination
General Electric (GE) may already be a household name in the US, but the technology and services giant is hoping to use its worldwide Olympic partner status to boost its presence in emerging markets.
"We're a unique sponsor because we are not a big consumer company," says Deirdre Latour, GE director of PR and marketing services. "For GE, the Olympics are about building brand awareness in China and telling emerging markets our story globally." This includes highlighting infrastructure used to build the Games and its broadcasting company, NBC Universal. As such, efforts are not necessarily targeted at consumer media, she adds, though reaching influencers, business leaders, and government officials remains key.
Weaving brand messaging throughout the company's role as a worldwide Olympic partner and exclusive US media partner, the company will promote itself and its programs throughout the presence of its global ad campaign "Imagination at Work," as well as its "Ecomagination" initiative promoting sustainability.
Edelman's sports and sponsorship group is assisting with communications strategy surrounding GE's sponsorship.
With a wide range of official product categories and services, GE will introduce itself by incorporating its services and brand messaging into venues such as the Imagination Center on the Olympic Green, where visitors can see an interactive showcase.
Opening on August 4, the Imagination Center will be promoted through media outreach and themed according to the Chinese elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, aligning with GE's own divisions of energy, water, healthcare, transportation, and lighting.
"The opportunities [to tell GE's stories] are limitless," says Latour.
Letting it all out
Kleenex facial tissues have always been a necessary item for some moviegoers. And now the brand is taking this association one step further by producing the documentary, let it out: the movie, premiering August 11 in Beijing. Produced by Look-alike Productions, the film features key Olympic moments as remembered by both consumers and athletes.
In the context of Kleenex's ongoing "Let It Out" campaign and its role as Olympic supplier to the US Olympic Committee, the film taps into brand messaging, encouraging consumers to be more open about their feelings, as well as the emotional engagement many feel for the Games, says Anya Schmidt, Kleenex brand manager.
According to the original "Let It Out" campaign, all consumers need to have an excellent release is a blue couch, a good listener, and a box of Kleenex. And so the film will feature 2008 Olympic hopefuls, former participants, and fans as they sit on the brand's blue couch and recall pivotal moments.
"We wanted to reach out to consumers in an environment relevant to them," says Schmidt. "[A film] was a good fit for those who enjoy watching the Games."
The targeted audience is "predominantly women," through whom the platform ex-tends to families and Olympic watchers, alike, she adds.
"What's critical is for the whole premise to be genuine and to hear from real people, not actors," explains Schmidt.
According to Erin Weinberg, managing partner of Taylor PR, Kleenex's agency for the Games, media outreach will extend to the 25 local markets in the US where the film will have a one-time showing on August 13.
In addition, Julie Foudy, former Olympic soccer player and Kleenex spokesperson, will travel throughout the US to share "let it out" moments.
"This program is all about emotional engagement with consumers," says Schmidt. "The role of the product is being able to [bring] relief and help someone feel better." And, just maybe, she adds, a little inspired.