With interest in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing heating up across Asia, the music network has teamed with the Swatch Group to create MTV The Games, an alternative version of the global sports event that will air on its Asian channels this summer.
The show "isn't a piss-take of the Olympics, but it's a bit irreverent," said David Sulzmann, VP-Viacom brand solutions at MTV Networks Asia in Singapore.
MTV The Games will feature 10 young Asians -- two each from Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand -- competing in wacky games.
In the High-Heel Race, for instance, competitors wearing four-inch heels will take part in a relay race traversing surfaces such as shag carpeting. The baton is a baguette-style handbag. Other games include Towel Combat, StareMaster and Radical Frisbee.
Swatch has a long relationship with MTV in Europe, but MTV The Games marks the first time the company has sponsored a pan-regional initiative with the youth channel in Asia.
"We're working with a company that has the same objectives and aspirations, like a desire to grow in Japan," Mr. Sulzmann said. "The event is skewed toward North Asia, an important economic region with a lot of synergies in youth culture."
Swatch keeps up with the times
Swatch is also a sponsor of the real Olympic Games; its Omega brand is the event's official timekeeper. The Swiss watch giant owns other premium watch brands such as Breguet, Blancpain, Jaquet-Droz and Tissot. But it was Swatch, a mass-market brand featuring colorful plastic wristbands, that became popular with teens and young adults and helped save the staid Swiss watch industry.
When Swatch launched in 1983, the venerable European watchmakers were losing market share to cheap electronic watches made in Japan. To keep the brand fresh, Swatch has teamed with hip sports such as snowboarding and beach volleyball and other youth brands like MTV.
"Swatch is constantly seeking new, very special and exciting event opportunities. MTV The Games coincides perfectly with our brand values," said Klaus-Peter Mager, Swatch's head of PR and events in Biel, Switzerland, in an e-mail. "The idea is to further establish Swatch as a fun and irreverent brand and to communicate our brand values, such as joy of life and positive provocation. "
The contests will take place in three Asian cities, starting June 23 in Singapore. Five of the 10 contestants will be eliminated in the first series of challenges, which will be followed by a second round in Taipei and the finals in Tokyo, both in July. Each one-day event, hosted by local MTV VJs, will feature interactive game booths and a Swatch booth showcasing its latest products.
While the games are lighthearted fun, the program will be shot and presented against the clock, with voice-over commentary, sporting statistics, athlete profiles and instant replay. The champion will take home a $20,000 prize, and the runners-up will win other prizes sponsored by Swatch and MTV.
The weekly series, edited into six 30-minute episodes, will premier in August 2007 -- exactly one year ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games -- and air on MTV channels across the region. The broadcaster began marketing the competition this month on its Asian channels and local-language websites. When MTV The Games goes on-air, the websites will offer wallpaper, screensaver and emoticon downloads, as well as vignettes, deleted scenes and bloopers.