Checking Out the Corporate Check-Writers

Every Pavilion Highlights Commitment to China

By Published on .

P.T. Black
P.T. Black
It's no secret that the Olympic Games rely heavily on corporate sponsorship. It was true in Athens in 2004 and it certainly is true in Beijing. Sponsors have an extremely high-profile position on the Olympic Green, and some of them are doing some pretty interesting things.

The first place most visitors encounter sponsorship is at the concession stands. I mentioned McDonald's exclusive rights as a restaurant vendor yesterday. They also have a massive restaurant in the far northeast corner of the green. I didn't see any special performances or activities, but they have been generously giving out meal coupons.

The corporate pavilions are really where the action is. From the outside, my favorite is CNPC (China National Petroleum). In a straightforward bid to showcase their environmental credentials, they covered their building in grass.
A performer on the green
A performer on the green Credit: P.T. Black

The CNPC pavilion gets no points for subtlety, but the message seems to be effective. I've heard visitors commenting on how green CNPC is, based on the fact that their building is, well, green.

Appropriately, the Bank of China pavilion looks like a bank or a high-end museum. Or a nefarious secret society -- but that could be my imagination running away.

The Adidas pavilion is focused on design and the fancy gear Olympic athletes are wearing. There are individual displays for key athletes and the shoes they co-designed. Flamboyant Jeremy Wariner's newest shoe is hidden under a black cloth, only to be revealed after he wears them out for his race.

The Coca-Cola pavilion includes a historic tour of Coke's involvement in the Olympics, including a shout-out for the first man from China to participate in the games back in 1932.
CNPC's Olympic pavilion
CNPC's Olympic pavilion Credit: P.T. Black

There is also some rah-rah China material including a room of mega-bottles designed by kids from each of China's provinces and territories. There's also a selection of bottles from around the world. Perhaps the neatest part is a notice to visitors that Coke's Chinese tagline is (temporarily) on every Coke can in the world. That's a lot of "face" for China!

I did get a chance to visit the VIP lounge in the Coca-Cola pavilion. It showcases some cool machines that can Bluetooth Olympics songs to mobile phones -- as long as the phones are made by fellow sponsor Samsung -- as well as a dispenser that chills soda cans to minus 6 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, even the VIP lounge suffers from the overall food shortage on the green. It offered nothing but cookies. Rumor is that draconian food safety requirements kept Coke from bringing in outside caterers.

Johnson & Johnson created my favorite pavilion. It is spacious and calming, with lots of soothing voices talking about "caring." It also has a blessedly powerful air-conditioning system.
Souvenir megastore
Souvenir megastore Credit: P.T. Black
The real treat is upstairs, where they showcase a few of China's stunning Terracotta Warriors. These treasures almost never leave Xi'an, the Chinese city where they were discovered, and they really are cool. What's the connection with J&J? The company provided the antifungal sprays that keep the warriors from decaying. And where does J&J get that technology? From their athlete's foot expertise. That's right, a fancy form of Daktarin protects China's greatest historical treasures.

One of the strangest things about the green is the seeming absence of shopping. No T-shirt stands, no key chains, no people shouting at you to buy Fuwa baseball caps. It's because the planners have centralized all the shopping into one megastore. It is like a Wal-Mart for the Olympics. They have everything from limited-edition Flash drives to kid's backpacks and commemorative pins. It's not the most romantic place to buy gifts, but it sure is efficient.

There is a striking consistency among the pavilions. They all talk about China, about each company's investment in this country and about their inspiring vision for the future. Every pavilion seems to say, "We have a long history. We are committed to China. We are building the future." Seems to cover everything, right?

Oh wait, what about sports?

Lenovo's Olympic pavilion
Lenovo's Olympic pavilion Credit: George P. Johnson Global Experience Marketing Agency
Interior of Lenovo's Olympic pavilion
Interior of Lenovo's Olympic pavilion Credit: George P. Johnson Global Experience Marketing Agency
Terracotta Warriors at J&J's pavilion
Terracotta Warriors at J&J's pavilion Credit: Simon Bruty for J&J
J&J's pavilion
J&J's pavilion Credit: Simon Bruty for J&J
Exterior of Bank of China's pavilion
Exterior of Bank of China's pavilion Credit: George P. Johnson Global Experience Marketing Agency
Interior of BOC's pavilion
Interior of BOC's pavilion Credit: George P. Johnson Global Experience Marketing Agency

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