Baidu Case Study: Shanghai General Motors at the Shanghai World Expo

David Wolf

At World Expo Shanghai in 2010, marketers working for the companies that sponsored the national pavilions faced both a singular opportunity and a daunting challenge. For a company like Shanghai General Motors (Shanghai GM), GM's successful joint venture in China, the Expo offered a branding opportunity in a family environment that would be patronised by tens of millions of consumers.

But the restrictions placed on corporate partners by Expo management in the name of fairness to all sponsors limited the creativity and scope of activities GM could undertake. This added to the challenge of turning a 184-day fair and the brief exposure (alongside dozens of others) to the eventual 73 million guests into a lasting impact for the company.

There was no shortage of clutter. World Expo organisers brought in RMB3.97 billion in sponsorship fees, with brands such as Coca-Cola and Cisco setting up their own pavilions, and brands such as Pepsi paying to sponsor national pavilions. GM and its joint venture partner Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, reportedly spent US$50 million on their pavilion (though they have never publicly confirmed that figure). The focus of their pavilion was the future of transportation technology, and in particular the future of electric cars. A video screen in the pavilion was designed to give visitors the sensation of flying over Shanghai in the year 2030, by which time electric cars have hugely reduced emissions.