Lenovo marketing the 2008 Summer Olympics – Voices without a voice?

Beijing Olympic StadiumI waited a few weeks to look around the Lenovo site that was built around the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. I wanted to see how things unfold.
Lenovo created a group blog featuring 100 athletes sharing their experiences before and during the games.

Status Quo
Lenovo is a worldwide partner of the games. Get ready to see their logo everywhere in August. It also happens that they are headquartered in not-so-free-speech China even though their commercials around the world during the Olympics will make us believe otherwise.

On top of that you have the IOC that tries to shut up their athletes and has totally failed with their great idea to bring more openness to China by awarding them the Olympic games. The IOC even agreed to censorship of journalists during the games.

I consider these the most misplaced games since the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. That shouldn‘t have happened either.

Enough politics. Let‘s move on to the site called “Voices of the Olympic games”.

Here is what you’ll get to see

One athlete from China
She is talking in Chinese. God only knows what she is revealing on the site. She will certainly not talk about the age of some of her team mates.

Where are the stars?
None of the big stars of the games are on the site. They are too busy practicing or seem to have other ( as in: better paying) engagements.

Example #1 – Basketball: Three players are on the site. All from Spain. Don‘t bother looking for Pau Gasol though. No NBA stars.

Example #2 – Swimming: That‘s a classic Olympic sport. There are three swimmers on the site. Two from Italy and one from South Africa. The US team is completely absent. Australia is another great swimming nation but represented not on the site either.

Exampe #3 – Track and Field: One US athlete on there. David Oliver is his name. I had to look him up on Google. A sponsored link from Lenovo popped up! He runs hurdles in case you wondered.

One athlete from Germany
Lena Schoenebom is a Modern Pentathlete. Germany has over 440 athletes at the games. Too bad none of the more popular ones are on the site. At least she is blogging in English☺

Dirk Nowitzki is not on there but would have been a great resource. He loves to talk about his experience as an Olympic. How about adding Chris Kaman to the site? How does it feel to have a German passport all out of a sudden? How is your German coming along?

And how many Russian athletes are on the site?
Zero! Not a single athlete from one of the biggest sports nations of the world. How about hearing from them about their preparation for the games?

I guess they must all be on Macs and refused to use a Lenovo Laptop.

No. I am not impressed with the selection of athletes and the language barriers on their site. The posts should be in English or they should be on a separate site.

I am not criticizing the absence of US athletes. I am criticizing the absence of stars. Many of the stars of the games could well be American.

But you’ll see a Tae Kwon Do athlete form Peru or a Canoeist from New Zealand.

Apparently it is all about participating – at the Olympics – not at the Lenovo site.

What are they talking about?
I am also not impressed with the noticeable absence of many topics that would actually trigger me to follow the site:

I don‘t care how many pairs of socks these athletes packed in their bags and how their latest practice went.

The rather irrelevant personal stuff should go on Plurk or mySpace – not on Twitter please!

Give me something I‘d like to talk about with my buddies.

I only took a sample. I might do some guys on the blog wrong. Paul Bremer‘s nephew is on there and he clearly has a background to provide some more relevant postings. I just was turned off by the vast majority of entries after a few minutes and didn’t digg deeper.

I hate to break it but this site is boring. It is simply way too politically correct. And we have plenty of that right now already. This is not authentic. Maybe I am wrong and the Viral Blog has it right.

Maybe and hopefully things will turn around and the site will improve during the games.

I am breaking my story in two pieces. It is getting a bit long for one blog post.
So my next post will deal with: HOW WOULD I HAVE DONE IT?

  • http://rohitbhargava.typepad.com Rohit

    Hi Klaus,

    Thanks for posting about this campaign and sharing your thoughts, as part of the team behind it I wanted to respond to a couple of your points. We have some history as fellow marketing bloggers and I definitely respect your opinion and enjoyed meeting you at Ad:Tech. There are a couple of points in your feedback that I wanted to highlight just to share a bit more detail about our thinking and strategy behind this effort:

    1. You mentioned the absence of stars as part of our program, and this was completely intentional. In putting the program together, our focus was on getting the “local heros” who were not necessarily big Olympic stars. We are doing an effort with those top stars too, and you can see it at http://tinyurl.com/lenovochampions. This program is about the real olympic athletes and their stories, whether they are champions or not. That said, we have several participants who are strong medal contenders and will likely win medals for their countries, including David Oliver (Hurdler, USA), Robert and Chantel Newberry (also potential medalists in Diving from Australia) and Rajyavardhan Rathore (India’s sole medalist from 2004).

    2. We would have loved to include some former Olympians like Dick Nowitzki as you suggested, but our program is about capturing voices of current Olympians and we focused on that.

    3. We had a cap of 100 athletes and did pursue several in Russia as well as a few other countries but were not able to finalize their participation before hitting our target of 100.

    4. There is also a deliberate choice to let all the athletes blog in different languages, because the audience for this site and the Olympics goes beyond only those who speak English. We have built tools into the site to allow you to filter by language so you can just see those posts in your own language if you like, but I believe limiting ourselves to only English-speaking athletes as you suggest wouldn’t capture the global nature of the Games.

    5. You mention the absence of conversations about air quality or quarrels with sports groups. In fact, much of the missing content you talk about are things that create controversy and media spectacle. That’s really not what this project is about either. Sometimes athletes may blog about what they are going to pack to get to China, or how they are worried about what they will eat, or how they stayed up all night the day before their big Olympic trial. I would argue that those topics are the MOST authentic as they are real voices from real athletes and not sensational content for the sake of controversy. I can totally understand that you may have found these things “boring and too politically correct” – but we haven’t told athletes what to blog about, only helped to give them technology to do it.

    At the end of the day, I think despite the fact that we weren’t able to get every country involved as we may have liked, this program will stand as one of the most authentic marketing efforts of the 2008 games solely because it is not a marketer telling you something or even a media property filtering a story. Our site is 100 athletes all talking about their personal passions and experiences in a way that you really cannot find anywhere else at the same scale. That’s what I’m excited about.

  • http://www.conceptbakery.com Klaus Holzapfel

    It is always great to hear from someone who I really respect as a relevant voice on the web:-)

    In this case it happens to be the creator of a project I just critized rather harshly.

    Rohit thanks very much for clarifying a few things. I am a sucker for Olympic sports as well as you are. I’ll keep visiting the voices site during the games. And if there is interesting content on there I will sure spread out the word.

    I just wish we find some athletes that will speak their truths without being to politically correct. That has been a big dilemma of Olympic games long before 2008.

    Enjoy your trip to China. You’ll sure find ways to proxy around that firewall;-)

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