The Golden Rice Bowl

Today's Chinese Champions are Tomorrow's Product Endorsers

By Published on .

Chien Hwang
Chien Hwang
For all athletes competing in the Olympic Games in Beijing, the experience and honor that comes from representing their country on this international stage will last a lifetime. They will become heroes at home and perhaps worldwide. For some athletes, particularly the photogenic ones, the recognition will turn into something more -- celebrity.

The kind of celebrity that, thanks to most of Ad Age readers, will have them swiping credit cards, drinking cans of soda and holding mobile phones through lucrative sponsorship deals.

The advertising community will make them the next generation of product endorsers. We will reintroduce them to the world after the games are over and turn their gold medals in Beijing into a lifetime of financial rewards.
Liu Xiang turned gold medals into lucrative sponsorship deals for brands like Nike, Coke, Visa and Nutrilite
Liu Xiang turned gold medals into lucrative sponsorship deals for brands like Nike, Coke, Visa and Nutrilite
This is the case everywhere, but it's especially evident in China. Nowhere in the world is the celebrity endorsement more prevalent -- a fact of life in the industry here that I hate.

For a long list of reasons, anyone who has worked in this market will know there is an obscene number of people from all walks of life endorsing products ranging from dumplings to sponges. Every brand has some sort of celebrity angle. I've lost count of the briefs that roll into the agency that say, "Consider using XYZ actor/singer/sports star."

No celebrity is as celebrated in China as an Olympic champion though. They seem so real and they are so loved. As I watch these games unfold, I can't help but wonder who will be the next Liu Xiang (110m hurdles gold medalist at the Olympics in 2004) or Guo Jing Jing (a diving gold medalist in 2004), picked to endorse every product and service imaginable.

I wonder if this time around, the new Olympic heroes will be used in better ways than the last crop of champions. I wonder if they will become incorporated into smart ideas for marketing campaigns, rather than becoming a prop holding up a product. I really hope so...

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