In July 2001, China was awarded the 2008 summer Olympics by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) (IOC report 2001).The Olympic Games is the world’s largest sporting event in which 220 nations take part. It comprises of 400 events in 28 different sports activities with 38 disciplines.
The Chinese government, considering the importance of the Olympic Games, has undertaken massive promotion of the games to ascertain the place of China as a world power amidst major concerns like; historical and contemporary human rights violations, environmental issues like the massive pollution by the Chinese Industries, the Darfur crisis and the undemocratic political structure in which the country is governed.
Despite these concerns, China has developed a plan to market itself domestically and internationally.
On 13th December, 2001, the Chinese government created the Beijing Organization Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG). The committee which consists of 22 departments was given the mandate to look into every issue concerning the 2008 Beijing summer Olympics (BOCOG 2008). It is therefore charged with, among other things, the responsibility of marketing the Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is in charge of organizing the Olympic Games which entails, mobilization of funds for the massive budget involved in organizing the event.
On the other hand the World business community seeks to have a chance during the event to market their respective companies at the global level. BOCOG works to harmonize the coordination between the Olympic Movement and the Business community as they work in China for the forthcoming Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. BOCOG developed an elaborate marketing plan. The plan is mainly concerned with the Games sponsorship deals, the licensing of businesses to take part in the summer 2008 Olympics, Television broadcasting, and corporate sponsorship. Additionally it has incorporated the use of an emblem, mascots, slogan, music, torch relay and sport in a bid to market the games.
Through the Games sponsorship deal, it gives companies at the national and the international level, with interest in marketing their businesses, an opportunity to clinch sponsorship deals. It provides exclusive sponsorship rights to the qualified companies irrespective of their sizes thereby enabling the participation, not only of the major International Corporations but also the medium and small sized companies. . This program has been divided into different levels to allow companies market in different regions of the world, under different categories. The Chinese government allows any interested sponsor to participate as long as its products do not contravene the Olympic spirit or the rules and regulations placed by the BOCOG and the IOC (BOCOG 2003).
Through this arrangement, prospective sponsors are allowed to use the BOCOG and/or Chinese Olympic Committee (COG) marks, logos, and designations in their advertisements and marketing promotions. They are also given the preference of getting the Television advertising space and billboards located in prime areas before or/and during the games. The sponsors are also given the opportunity of sponsoring cultural programs and important events like the torch relay, their rights are protected by the BOCOG program of the anti-ambush and are given the opportunity of attending workshops and observations which are organized by BOCOG.
According to the BOCOG report of 2008, there are twenty four (24) Local and International Corporations which have signed contracts to become IOC’s and the Chinese Government’s partners in the summer Olympics. Some of these include; Coca-cola, General Electric(GE), John Hancock, Kodak, Panasonic, Samsung Electronics, Schlumberger, Swatch, Visa International, Johnson & Johnson, Lenovo, Manulife, Omega, Bank of China, Atos Origin, SINOPEC, CHINA MOBILE, VW, Adidas and PICC (BOCOG 2008).
Different approaches have been applied in the selection of the sponsors. These include: The corporate strength and accountability, mainly looking at the financial base, the growth trends in the company for the past five years, market position with respect to other competitors and the amount of funds the company is ready to spend to sponsor the event. Other criteria include: The quality and reliability of products/service which looks at the viability of the products with respect to Olympic Games. Brand alignment which assesses the reputation and the image of the company and the extent to which the company raises the spirit of the Olympic Movement and the concept of the Beijing Olympic Games. It also considers the Market Activation which looks at the amount of money the companies are ready to invest in the promotion of their products during the Beijing Olympic Games.
The Chinese government through BOCOG has marketed itself through the provision of Television broadcasting has also been used to market the event. This is because Olympic Games are watched by the highest number of people in the world (even higher than the FIFA world cup).It is also televised by the highest number of countries in the world. The Chinese government has adopted the “long-term broadcasting rights strategy” which was developed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It gives rights to countries to broadcast Olympic Games even after the end of the Olympic Games.
Another strategy used by the Chinese government to encourage people to buy tickets for the many events in the Olympic Games is the “Olympic Game Ticketing”: In every Olympic Games, a large number of tickets are sold. For example, according to an IOC report, more than 6.7 million tickets were sold in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney at total revenue of US$551 million. The summer 2008 Olympics tickets went on sale on April 14th 2007, and the Chinese government is expecting to sell more than 7 million tickets by the end of the event. (BOCOG 2007 report)
Licensing has also been used by the Chinese government as a marketing strategy through the creation of licensing agreements that awards rights of using official Olympic logos, to different companies. According to BOCOG the licensing program objectives are; to promote the Beijing Olympic, to promote the uniqueness of the Chinese culture through the wide variety of locally produced Chinese products, to involve the Chinese companies in the Beijing Olympics, to raise funds for the massive budget involved in organizing the event and to promote the theme” Made in china=High quality” which aims at promoting Chinese products throughout the world (BOCOG 2008).
Other marketing strategies involved the availing of an emblem in August 2003 in Beijing. The emblem symbolizes the unique Chinese culture and is a symbol of warm welcoming to the people of the world to share in china’s rich culture, history and heritage. A slogan has also been availed titled’ “One World One Dream” which aims at uniting the entire human race towards a united future.
The Chinese government has also licensed specific stores to sell Olympics products. These stores were in operational as early as July 2007.Currently the stores have adopted online marketing of its merchandise, making the Olympic products available in all the five continents. The government is also using the torch relay event to market the Olympics, even though it is being met with protest around the world. The torch relay is expected to last one hundred and thirty days and passes through five continents.
There have been calls from different lobby groups for the boycott of the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing citing the poor past and present human rights records in China and the suppression of protests in Tibet (A colony of china) in which students are calling for a free Tibet. According to Charles Bremner (2008) the Chinese government are desperate to protect its image and as a result is compromising on human rights standards. The other concerns are failure by the Chinese government to put pressure on the Sudanese government so as to end suffering in the Darfur region. There is also concern over the quality of air in Beijing with different environmental experts claiming that it is polluted and may in turn affect the health of athletes. China has also been accused of forcefully evicting more than 1.5 million residents of Beijing to create room for the expected visitors (Reuters, 2006)). This has drawn quiet protests among its citizens as they live in fear. Due to the above mentioned concerned, these groups are calling for the boycott of the Summer Olympics by Individual athletes, tourists, and even countries.
Even though there have been concerns over the Chinese government human rights records, mode of governance, environmental suitability, the Chinese government has succeeded in marketing itself as one of the most industrialized nations of the 21st century and is certainly best suited for hosting the 2008 summer Olympics.
BOCOG (2008). Official sponsors of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games unveiled. Retrieved on 9th, April, 2008 from http://en.beijing2008.cn/
BOCOG (2007) Beijing 2008 tickets go on sale. Retrieved on 6th, April, 2008 from http://en.beijing2008.cn/
BOCOG (2006). The Official Mascots of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Retrieved on 9th April, 2008 from http://en.beijing2008.cn/
Bremner, C. (2008). Tibet protests force organizers to snuff out Olympic flame in Paris.The times. Retrieved on 3rd, April, 2008 from www.timesonline.co.uk/
Economic Forum, (19 September, 2003.) Marketing Plan of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Sponsorship and Licensing Opportunities for Hong Kong Companies. Retrieved on 9th April 2008 http://www.hktdc.com/econforum/tdc/tdc030903.htm
IOC(2001) China in 2008. Retrieved on 9th, April, 2008. www.olympic.org
Reuters(2006) Beijing to evict 1.5 million for Olympics: group. Retrieved on 9th, April, 2008. www.reuters.com/archieve