Marketers tap into China's World Cup frenzy

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BEIJING -- Although the Chinese soccer team didn't make it to Paris for World Cup '98, the enthusiasm of Chinese fans is as strong as those in the Western countries, with World Cup mania sweeping the capital of Beijing and marketers taking full advantage.

At CVIC Shopping Centre, one of the largest and most luxurious stores in Beijing, a stand has been erected at the mall entrance exclusively to sell World Cup products. One of the hottest products is a mini football made by Paris-based luxury leather goods manufacturer Louis Vuitton, which the marketer says is selling faster than it can make them. The football is pictured in ads perched on a woman's stiletto-heeled foot.

Also in demand are watches engraved with the golden trophy, pens with the World Cup '98 logo and the official mascot, a bright blue furry French Chicken, selling for $9.

Coca-Cola, a sponsor of the competition, has joined in by creating a large structure in the shape of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and made entirely from Coke cans. It is placed on the first floor of the Beijing North Star Shopping Centre.

And many companies, such as French clothing manufacturer Sun Island, are offering consumers prizes for correctly predicting match results.

One product sector that's witnessing a turnaround as a result of the competition is video tape recorders. After sluggish sales in recent years, the machines are now hot-selling items in Beijing as those who can't stay up through the night to watch live broadcasts of the World Cup matches record them to watch the next day.

Hotels in the Chinese capital are also doing their best to attract football fans. One ad for the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, for example, tempts with: "The soccer frenzy is on! From the stadium of Saint Denis, watch your favorite team battle it out while enjoying a cool Carlsberg beer. Live nightly from the June 10 playoffs to the finals on July 12 at Inn Bar. Be part of the excitement!"

Copyright June 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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