SBJ/August 6 - 12, 2007/SBJ In Depth

Sponsors sticking to typical plans

Though general interest in China has created more interest around the Beijing Games domestically than existed for Athens in 2004, Olympic sponsors are sticking to their traditional marketing timetable in the United States.

Swimmer Aaron Peirsol, a three-time gold medalist
in Athens, will be featured in Bank of America’s
Hometown Hopefuls program.

Of 12 USOC and IOC partners contacted, only a few plan to make announcements during the one-year-out week. Most intend to wait until February or March to activate domestically.

“Many sponsors operate quadrennial to quadrennial with shorter-term vision rather than making a long-term play,” said Rob Prazmark, executive vice president of Olympic sales and marketing at Wasserman Media Group. “All the big successful parties build way out in front. Why some people don’t do that is still a mystery.”

USOC sponsor Bank of America plans to announce its roster of 12 Olympic athletes this week. Athletes such as softball player Jennie Finch and swimmer Aaron Peirsol will be featured as part of the Hometown Hopefuls program.

Another sponsor, AT&T, is collaborating with the USOC on the organization’s Web site, which debuts this week. The site will use AT&T technology to allow callers to leave messages that determine how many degrees of separation there are between them and 100 participating Olympic athletes.

Other USOC sponsors and partners, though, including Anheuser-Busch, 24-Hour Fitness, Home Depot and Hilton Hotels, are still developing their plans and will roll them out later this year or early next year.

Band-Aid is utilizing the Olympic mascots, the
Fuwas, in a school promotion and at retail.

“You have to weigh jumping out early with keeping something fresh for a full year,” said Gary Pluchino, vice president of IMG. “Even if it’s China and there’s a lot of buzz, it’s still not as easy as a games in the States.”

TOP (The Olympic Partner) sponsors also are limiting their activations domestically, opting instead to focus their Olympic marketing efforts on the Chinese and international marketplace.

McDonald’s plans to launch a “McDonald’s Champion Kids” initiative that will offer children around the world the chance to attend the Olympic Games. Each participating country will determine the criteria for selection.

Lenovo plans to auction off 39 special-edition laptop computers featuring the Olympic Torch design in early 2008 in three countries. All proceeds go to its Lenovo Hopes program, which contributes to nonprofits such as Right to Play.

Though Visa plans a series of athlete press tours in the United States beginning this week, the bulk of its programs will debut later in the year. They will launch a promotion in January offering cardholders the chance to win a trip to Beijing for the 2008 Games.

In the Chinese market, GE plans to launch its first TV ad campaign in China in the fourth quarter. The ad will focus on GE’s “ecomagination initiative,” which is a series of “green” products and ideas.

Johnson & Johnson brands like Band-Aid and Baby are activating in China. Band-Aid is doing a promotion in schools and at retail using the Olympic mascots, the Fuwas. Baby has launched an “unsung heroes” campaign with an Olympic-themed promotion pack. Brands are expected to do similar Olympic activations at retail in the United States next year.

Coca-Cola, which has hosted the official Olympic pin trading center since 1988, will unveil the official one-year-out pin for China this week in Beijing. Similar to others, the company is still developing its domestic activation plans and will intensify its activation in 2008.

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