WASHINGTON, DC: Publicis Groupe's consulting arm Winner & Associates has joined with US law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in a new venture to assess and advise clients on the pitfalls than can befall the pursuit of business in China.

The alliance, unveiled Tuesday, will focus particularly on the needs of sponsors of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Says AGSHF's man in Beijing, Eliot Cutler: "Everyone is watching China, and because of the Olympics, the spotlight is there. Sponsors are worried about a backlash."

Batting for Publicis is Chuck Winner, president/ceo of W&A, a specialist in crisis communications and strategy.

He expresses concern that advocacy groups are threatening boycotts of Olympics sponsors so as to bring attention to their causes before the Games.

The partnership intends to monitor potential boycott plans by nongovernmental organizations and other freedom lobbyists, as well as their communications via blogs and local media.

Winner, meantime, is talking-up the potential problems: "My view is that there is going to be even more of a spotlight than was expected. Every company that does business [in China] should be prepared to deal with it."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online. additional content by WARC staff