Lenovo-designed Olympic torch unveiled in Beijing

And other news in Greater China

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BEIJING--Three global sponsors of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Lento Group, Samson Electronics and Coca-Cola Co., are one step closer to the event with the debut of the next Olympic torch and the rollout of the itinerary for the global torch relay.

The 2008 torch, designed by Lenovo in a contest against over 300 rivals, was unveiled in late April by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCA), just over a year ahead of the next summer games.

Created to build awareness and anticipation for each upcoming Olympics, the relay is one of the best-known pre-Olympic activities, and a sought-after marketing opportunity for a select number of global sponsors. Besides Lenovo, South Korea’s Samsung and Coca-Cola--which first became a presenting sponsor of the Olympic Torch Relay for the Atlanta 1996 Centennial Olympic Games--are worldwide partners for the next torch relay.

The Olympic torch represents the history and culture of its host country and city. The torch will be lit in Olympia, Greece, in March 2008. Then it will be carried by torchbearers from city to city in 20 countries and then through 300 cities in China until the summer games kick off in Beijing on August 8, 2008.

Lento, the world's fourth-largest PC company, incorporated historical Chinese symbolism into a modern design, representing China’s transformation from ancient, agricultural society into the world’s fastest-growing economy.

Weighing 2.21 pounds, the new torch is deep red and bright silver, a fusion of traditional Chinese art and contemporary design, blending symbols of Chinese culture, philosophy and art. The embossed pattern of clouds is often found in Chinese architecture, paintings, furniture and storytelling.

As the only Chinese company to become a global Olympic sponsor and one of the few global brands created in China so far, “Lenovo's spirit, similar to that of the Olympic Games themselves, is multicultural, collaborative and competitive,” said the company’s Beijing-based chairman, Yang Yuanqing, at the ceremony when the torch was introduced.

Mizuno consolidates China creative with Nitro
SHANGHAI--Mizuno has consolidated the advertising business for its sports and leisure wear products in China with Nitro Group, an independent ad agency. The agency’s Shanghai office will handle brand positioning for the Japanese company, whose products are sold in over 700 stores throughout China, the world’s fastest-growing sportswear market. Previously, part of the the account was handled by Zou Marketing, another independent marketing consultancy based in Shanghai.

HiSense taps Grey Global Group for TV account
BEIJING--HiSense Group has appointed Grey Global Group in Beijing to handle creative for its HiSense Electronics subsidiary, one of the mainland’s largest TV manufacturers. The win followed a four-way pitch against JWT, Dentsu and Ogilvy & Mather. Previously, the account was handled by various local agencies. This appointment marks the first time the company has hired a multinational agency. HiSense manufactures 10 million TV sets annually and leads the nation’s flat-screen TV market in terms of volume and value, and it is also the leading export brand to foreign retail chains such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy.

Star partners with China production company to create programming with global appeal
HONG KONG--SGL Entertainment, a wholly-owned subsidiary of News Corp.’s Star Group, has partnered with Qin Jia Yuan Media Services Co.’s subsidiary Hangwai Enterprises, a leading player in TV drama production and distribution in China, to explore the global Chinese TV drama market. The first collaboration will be the creation and distribution of a Mandarin-language TV drama series based on the popular science fiction novel series, “Wesley.”

China is working on the rollout of a nationwide digital television platform, which will require more programming in a country that restricts the ability of foreigners to get involved with content. The alliance is also hoping to find a market for its programming overseas, the potential for which is “unexplored,” said Anita Leung Fung Yee, QJY’s CEO in Hong Kong.

QJY, which already has a strong track record in creating TV dramas in mainland China, and SGL will collaborate on story concept, market research, script development, casting, sales and distribution, packaging and promotional activities.

“Our partnership will help whet the insatiable appetite of Chinese audiences across the globe for quality programming,” said Jason Siu, general manager of Star’s Chinese programming, based in Taipei.

MySpace launches beta version in China
BEIJING--News Corp. has launched a beta version of its social networking site MySpace in China at Myspace.cn with investment from MySpace, IDG and China Broadband Capital Partners. Like elsewhere in the world, MySpace allows Chinese web surfers to create individual homepages with blog posts, photos and other personal information, and connect with other Chinese cyber denizens.

The Chinese site is a locally owned, operated and managed company run by Beijing-based CEO Luo Chuan, a strategy that News Corp. hopes will allow MySpace to thrive in a country where other U.S. internet companies like Google, Yahoo and Ebay have struggled. In contrast, Chinese internet startups like Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, Sina and Sohu have thrived because they were quicker to launch in China and benefit from strong local experience and market knowledge.

Aware of strong local competition, News Corp. and MySpace’s Chinese operators are maneuvering carefully, although the site signed up over 30,000 registered users by May 8, according to Pacific Epoch, a Shanghai-based digital media consultancy.

“MySpace China is not yet optimized to fully meet the needs of Chinese users and we continue to improve products and services based on the feedback and recommendations from our test and trial users,” said Mr. Luo.
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