SBD/Issue 219/Olympics

On The Ground In Beijing: GE Touts Return On Olympic Investment

Rogge Speaks At Grand Opening Of The
GE Imagination Center Today In Beijing
GE can point to roughly $700M in China-related sales thanks to its sponsorship of the Beijing Games, according to Peter Foss, the company's President of Olympic Sponsorship & Corporate Sales. Foss made the comments during the first TOP-sponsor shindig of the Olympics, in which GE held a grand opening of its two-story, 16,500-square-foot GE Imagination Center today. "Our sponsorship is about selling something," Foss said. He added that since GE signed on as a TOP sponsor and ramped up its business activity in China, the company "can look and identify about $700(M) (in increased sales) that's directly related to the Olympics here in Beijing." GE has supplied energy distribution, lighting, water treatment and security equipment and systems to 400 different projects around Beijing, according to the company. About 12,000 of GE's 300,000 employees worldwide are based in China. GE is building a China headquarters in Shanghai. IOC President Jacques Rogge presided over the opening of the Imagination Center, and NBC Universal Sports and Olympics Chair Dick Ebersol also attended. Foss said GE is expecting 6,000 spectators a day to visit the Imagination Center during the Games. The Imagination Center's emphasis is on sustainability, an issue critical to China's 1.3 billion people. Indeed, today's grand opening was held amid 95-degree heat, shirt-drenching 70% humidity and a heavy, hazy sky.

CATCHING UP WITH FOSS: After the official grand opening, Foss answered a few questions from THE DAILY about GE's Olympic sponsorship.

Q: What's the purpose of the GE Imagination Center exhibit? Why do this?

Foss: It's really for identification. GE, from a standpoint of brand awareness and company awareness, had an opportunity to highlight our technologies. Here in China, up until two years ago when we became an Olympic sponsor and really began focusing on this area, not many people knew GE, they didn't know who we were and what we did.

Q: Was becoming a TOP sponsor purely a China play?

Foss: It was a China play. It was also a natural extension of the relationship that NBC has had with the IOC. Clearly, it fit into a strategy we have for growth, big growth, here in Asia. It is not only about the Olympics, it's about the other $250B that's being spent on infrastructure throughout China. We're an infrastructure company. You've got 200 cities with over 1 million people. You're going to build airports, hospitals, production of energy, power plants, water -- it's all stuff that we do.

Foss Says TOP Sponsorship Has
Been Beneficial For General Electric
Q: How do you measure how your sponsorship is doing?

Foss: From an incremental growth standpoint, we can look and identify about $700M of business that's directly related to the Olympics here in Beijing.

Q: So has that business already paid for the TOP sponsorship?

Foss: Oh, I wouldn't say that. ... It's revenue, not profit I'm talking about. It isn't just about the revenue piece. You've got the marketing pieces and the PR pieces and the hospitality pieces. We'll entertain upward of 2,200 customers here. You add that up, it's more than just paying for a sponsorship. But they are all aimed at awareness of our brand. It's been very good for us.

For more on this story, our Q&A with Foss and Jay Weiner’s first weekend in Beijing, please visit

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