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Marketing the 2008 Summer Olympics

April 10th, 2008 | by Klaus Holzapfel |

The biggest event in sports certainly makes a lot of people think how they can integrate it into their marketing activities.

Adidas & Nike are rolling their videos and games out already. I came across an interesting idea that Rohit Barghava presented in his blog a few days ago. Lenovo hired Ogilvy for this: 100 athletes will receive a Lenovo notebook and are supposed to capture their preparation to the Olympics in a blog format.

My initial thoughts were:
1. The project totally hinges with the athletes you will choose. If you get the interesting opinionated ones that are willing to go beyond the normal boring irrelevant jabber you will have something going.

2. How about the white elephants like doping or Tibet? Can a company like Lenovo (that designed the Olympic torch) allow for any critical comments at all? Or will the Chinese government just shut down the site?

Unfortunately the IOC and China are creating an atmosphere where athletes are supposed to run or swim their laps and otherwise should just smile and be happy.

I think Lenovo has too much at stake in China to support anything that might turn into something controversial – but memorable. I’d be glad to be proven wrong.

I am sure Lenovo and Ogilvy have thought it through and will come up with all the right answers.

I feel that  if you have to be politically correct the project will be doomed. The readers will look more at what athletes don’t say. The Tibet coalition might hack the blogs. You might be perceived to be on the wrong side of the fence.

The bigger picture:
The games remind me more and more of the1936 Olympics in Berlin, the closer we are marching towards them. It is quite obvious that the games in Beijing will be nothing like the games in Sydney. There is a huge agenda that has nothing to do with sports. But it can’t be hidden – no matter what. Therefore associating yourself with the games this year means you are also somehow associating yourself with a cruel dictatorship. Let’s just call it what it is for once. Visas now being restricted.  Still the highest rate of death penalties in the world  +++  Brutal soldiers “protecting” the Olympic torch +++ Branding the Dalai Lama as a violent trouble maker  +++ Tianmen Square still not to be mentioned  +++  Internet censorship  +++  doped up athletes… not exactly the perfect environment for happy games.

Worst of all: The country has been moving backwards lately and the IOC has the worst PR in the world. George W. looks like a PR genius compared to Mr. Rogge and friends.

Our take:
Ignore the Olympic games altogether. We’d aim a little lower and look at the European Soccer Championship in Austria & Switzerland this summer. Leave the few hooligans aside: Otherwise there will be millions of people sharing their passion for the most popular sport in the world. That is something you might want to be associated with. There will be passion & happy people dancing in the streets.

I’ll be crying most probably because I won’t be able to see the games live in Denver;-)

Final thoughts:
The US TV coverage of the Olympics makes me want to puke. I feel sick already;-)
People are getting tired of doped up athletes lying to the public.
The IOC gambled away its reputation in the last weeks.
This is worse than the old “Samaranch junta”.
I feel bad for the athletes that are really just trying to compete.
This is one big story of “Un-Authenticity”.

I wish I wouldn’t be so cynical but I feel that too many people are looking the other way when it comes to the games in China and it is time to call things what they are.

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