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Let the Ambush Games Begin

Beijing Olympic Committee Is Turning a Blind Eye to Guerrilla Marketing

By Published on . 1

David Wolf
David Wolf
Nothing could have set a more appropriate tone for the guerrilla nature of the marketing war being waged around the Olympics than Li Ning's lighting of the Olympic Flame.

In the four-hour pre-ceremony CCTV telecast from the Olympic Green, presenters sported Lenovo laptops and Haier-branded Fuwa dolls. (Five Fuwa characters, also called friendlies, are the cutesy mascots of the 2008 Olympic Games.)

But nearly all of the CCTV correspondents reporting from around the city sported golf shirts with the CCTV Olympic logo on the left breast and the Li Ning logo on the other. [Ed note: Last month, Li Ning said it would cancel its deal with CCTV during the games but after the IOC recently found "no violation of its rules," Li Ning reinstated the deal.]

During the opening ceremonies themselves, CCTV did not cut away for any commercial breaks. There were no sponsor logos visible. There were, however, prominent non-sponsor logos on the uniforms of several of the teams as they marched into the Bird's Nest. The Spanish uniforms, for example, were all Li Ning.

Whatever Adidas manages to make from its Olympic sponsorship, the coverage on Friday definitely went to the ambushers.

Yanjing Beer is having a difficult time defending its partnership with the games too -- at least in Beijing.

While many Olympic volunteers on Beijing streets sported Yanjing T-shirts and security personnel sought shade under Yanjing umbrellas, Heineken hosted a large hospitality suite for Olympians and visitors, and Corona sent groups of young people with bright yellow backpacks to hand out party guides to Beijing in area hotspots.

Who do you think came off as cooler: Yanjing or its guerrilla rivals?

Of course, super-cool Budweiser, which is an Olympic beer sponsor, also has a large presence on the green.

Not to be outdone by China Mobile's Olympic partnership, China Unicom was running ads in elevators, lobbies and other targeted locations showing fans cheering China in front of a TV.

Indeed, as the games go on, ambush-marketing programs -- invisible prior to Aug. 8 -- are starting to pop up all over Beijing, despite what appeared to be draconian efforts on the part of the Beijing Organizing Committee of the 2008 Olympic Games (BOCOG) and the Chinese government to stop them.

All of this has been cause for speculation, not just about the efficacy of counter-ambush efforts, but about whether, now that the games have begun, ambush marketing will be quietly tolerated by local authorities.

Articles on Beijing's campaign to prevent ambush marketing have focused on BOCOG as the heavy in the process.

I disagree. As the party with the most to lose in the process, the IOC is probably the hidden force behind the anti-ambush efforts. I think BOCOG, which won't exist in four weeks, couldn't care less.

The signal for ambushers? The red light is out. The yellow light is on. Proceed ... but do so with caution.

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