China Prepares to Host 2008 Olympics with Patriotic Ads

01 September 2004

As China celebrates its Olympian success in this year's Games, the nation's advertisers already have an eye cast towards Beijing 2008.

An average 35% of China's urban prime-time TV audience tuned in each night to see the country's athletes receive their record thirty-two gold medals in Athens, and in doing so were bombarded with patriotic Chinese marketing already making reference to 2008.

And with the commercial popularity of this year's Games looking set to be surpassed in four years' time, WPP Group's ceo Sir Martin Sorrell has commented: "It's difficult to think of any sporting or cultural event in the world that could be bigger." By then, he also predicts China to have reached number two status in the global ad market.

China's advertisers are particularly keen to concentrate efforts on the host market, with ads for domestic brands such as Li Ning Sports Goods focusing on national pride and the company's history. [Founder/chairman Li Ning was himself an Olympic success story in the 1984 Games.] Proclaims the ad voice-over: "We all share the same dream -- because we are all 'Made in China'."

However, some think that too much patriotism can be overpowering, or even unsuccessful in the case of foreign brands. Aaron Lau, Asia chairman of Omnicom Group's DDB ad agency believes that "nationalism is a very fine line that could backfire", although McDonald's and PepsiCo seem prepared to take the risk.

Other brands, such as China Mobile Communications are taking the safer option. As a national sponsor of Beijing 2008, its ads extol the performances of individual athletes.

As Ogilvy's group planning director Edward Bell says: "It goes back to the basic principles of marketing -- brands need to find their own space."

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff