Olympic sponsor Coke welcomes torch relay to mainland China

And other news in Greater China

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SANYA--If Western observers thought the angry pro-Tibet protests in the West would influence Olympic sponsors in China, they were wrong.

On May 3, just under 100 days before the opening ceremony, Coca-Cola Co. showed just how popular the games are in China--and how eager global companies are to tap into the excitement of Chinese consumers.

In Sanya, a port city in Hainan province in southern China, the organizing committee for the Beijing Olympics, Coke executives including China President Doug Jackson, and Olympic torchbearers like basketball player Yi Jianlian, welcomed the Olylmpic torch to mainland China with a celebration that showed no hint of the protests that took place in other sections of the global torch relay. In addition to sponsoring the Olympic Games, Coke is one of three official sponsors of the relay, along with Lenovo Group and Samsung Electronics.

At the party, Coca-Cola premiered its latest Olympics TV spot "Red Around the Country." The commercial follows a group of friends who decide to make the most out of the Olympic experience by inviting people to roll out the world's largest red carpet, honoring the path of the Olympic Flame.

Along the route from Beijing to Sanya, the group grows, sharing its joy, pride and excitement with millions. The giant red carpet symbolizes the importance of this historic event for China and the Olympic spirit felt across the country, which has increased as quickly as criticism has spread overseas. The spot was created by Coke's ad agency in China, Red Lounge. (View the ad on YouTube.)

The event's entertainment was provided by some of the pop stars Coke sponsors in China--Will Pan and the all-girl band S.H.E. Coke also created an Olympic digital platform that allows consumers to watch and participate in the 2008 Olympics and the Olympic Torch Relay online at iCoke.cn through a digital photo montage and a 3D interactive site. Coke believes the site will be visited by more than 200 million people.

The rest of the torch relay’s expansive tour around mainland China will be a bit more subdued, however, because of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck near Chengdu, Sichuan province on May 12 The quake killed more than 10,000 people in eight areas in southwest China.

According to BOCOG, there are no plans to shorten the relay, but some of the ceremonies and festivities will be scaled down and a minute of silence will be observed before runners set off. Donations have also been pouring into the area. On May 13, the International Olylmpic Committee said it was donating $1 million to help earthquake victims.

Coke has already committed five million RMB ($714,600) for relief efforts. Volkswagen Group, a national level sponsor of this summer’s Olympic Games, and its joint venture partners, donated six million RMB ($857,400) to the Chinese Red Cross Foundation. The German company's chief rival in China, General Motors Corp. and its local partners also donated six million RMB to Sichuan province to support rescue and reconstruction efforts. Nissan Motor Co. has pledged 15 million yen ($142,670) to the Red Cross in China.

Nike launches customization web site in China
SHANGHAI--Nike has launched a Chinese-language version of its NIKEiD web site at NIKEiD.com.cn that lets local consumers participate in the design process of Nike products.

First launched in the U.S. in 1999, and later introduced in Japan and Europe, NIKEiD.com lets consumers custom design footwear, equipment and apparel online through selections of colors, patterns, personal messages and materials.

After these designs are created on NIKEiD.com.cn, consumers can store images of their customized footwear and apparel in an online locker which can be shared with others. After ordering, the product will be manufactured and delivered to the customer at home within 3-4 weeks with no additional cost for shipping.

“We find that nowadays, the younger generation of Chinese consumers doesn't just want to buy products, but they want to be able to use those products as a platform for self-expression,” said Carol Chen, Nike’s marketing director, China in Shanghai.

The site can be accessed from computers as well as via a new Nike store in Shanghai, where the U.S. sportswear company has opened NIKEiD Studio, an appointment-only private space allowing consumers to design their products in luxurious surroundings with hands-on help from trained design consultants, who show consumers what is possible within the realm of NIKEiD design.

In addition to the products available for customization online, there are six products available only at the NIKEiD Studio--the Air Classic BW, Air Force 25 Premium Low, Air Max 90 EX VII, Cortez, Nike Dunk High Premium and the Nike Dunk Low Premium.

The ground floor of the Shanghai store--located in Brilliance Mall on Shanghai's most famous shopping street, Nanjing East Road--also houses the NIKEiD Bar, a walk-in space where consumers can experiment with custom shoe designs and book appointments for the NIKEiD Studio in the store’s lower floor.

VW promotes Skoda through mobile marketing
SHANGHAI--Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive Co., a joint venture between Volkswagen Group and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. that produces Skoda cars in China, has partnered with MyClick Media to establish an interactive mobile platform. Skoda Auto, a Czech Republic car maker, was bought by Volkswagen in 1991.

MyClick’s software lets prospective Skoda buyers connect with the internet through their mobile phones using image recognition software. Instead of inputting web site addresses, mobile phone subscribers can simplify the process by clicking MyClick’s photo frame on their phones to open relevant WAP web sites and get infotainment news and other services like discounts.

For the Skoda promotion, consumers are connected directly to Skoda’s WAP site. Once there, they can fill in relevant information to receive detailed information and enter a lucky draw contest by shooting the designated image on Skoda ads, created by Grey Group in Shanghai, with their camera phone and sending an SMS or MMS message to the designated number. That technology has also been used by consumer marketers in China such as PepsiCo. (See also, Pepsi's third challenge contest keeps consumers in charge, April 23, 2008.)

VW has taken a digital marketing approach to promote its connection with the Olympic torch relay. The German car company is a national sponsor of this summer’s games, and will supply 1,000 cars for the convoy accompanying the torch around China. The Olympic torch will travel across China for nearly 100 days before landing in Beijing for the opening ceremony on Aug. 8, 2008.

VW has launched a web site, www.faw-vw.com/honkforchina, created by the Shanghai office Tribal DDB, the digital arm of Omnicom Group’s DDB Group. The site is aimed at China's estimated 100 million bloggers.

“Bloggers are China's most powerful online community. If you can win them to support your cause, then your campaign can engage the audience on a much more realistic, truthful and relevant level,” said Dirk Eschenbacher, exec creative director at Tribal DDB in Shanghai.

The campaign lets Chinese “honk for China” on their blogs. If they link their blog entry to the official FAW WV torch relay map web site, they receive a “honking badge” to embed in their blog. The blogger can compose a personalized tune using different horn sounds from FAW VW vehicles. Each time someone honks his horn it will play the tune, and a special counter on the blog will go up.

The higher the counter, the greater chance the blogger has to win a prize such as an all-inclusive trip to Beijing and access to the opening and closing ceremonies at the Olympics. Other prizes include a one-year lease on a car sold by FAW VW. The German auto company, in a joint venture with China’s First Automobile Works, makes the Golf, Jetta, Bora, Sagitar and Magotan models. A banner ad on the home of Sina's Blog page, one of China's most popular blog portals, publishes a live update of the highest-ranked bloggers, according to VW’s Honking Counter.
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