“In my twenty years in the Olympics, I have never seen the level of interest that I am seeing here,” whooped International Olympic Committee marketing director Michael Payne of his recent visit to Beijing.

The exultant marketer was referring to the massive marketing bonanza already starting to seethe in the Chinese capital five years in advance of the 2008 Olympic Games.

Local sponsors, including six automobile firms, are already forming a not-so-orderly line to register their eagerness to participate. Says Payne: “The companies are already coming and saying, ‘How do we get involved?’ as opposed to us having to knock on their doors, which is how it usually works.”

The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad will formally open the local sponsorship bidding process on September 1 and expects all ten local contracts – likely to include top Chinese banks, car and energy companies – to be inked by the year end.

But indigenous sponsors will have the right to exploit the games only within China; marketing rights across the rest of the globe will be invested in the dozen or so multinationals already signed by the International Olympic Committee.

The Chinese authorities are relying on local sponsorship to help them break even on the Games – likely to cost $1.61 billion (€1.47bn; £1.02bn). And that’s just the direct cost of the games: the eyewatering infrastructure investments (new highways, stadia, hotels) will be borne by the city of Beijing and central government.

Head of Olympic marketing in Asia for IMG Consulting, Marcus John, believes top-tier sponsors in some categories could end up paying more than $65 million apiece. “It's going to be totally unprecedented,” he predicts.

As one cynical onlooker has already observed: “Its not the glory of taking part that counts; it’s the winning.”

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