What do consumers around the world really think about the 2008 Olympic Games?

Synovate's Jan Hofmeyr has good and bad news for sponsors

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HONG KONG--Have consumers registered that the 2008 Olympic Games are just eight months away? For the most part, yes, according to a survey by Synovate.

The Hong Kong-based market research company, part of Aegis Group, interviewed over 9,500 people in 12 countries across North America, Asia/Pacific and Europe about the Olympic Games. It discovered 45% of consumers across the world did not know that next year's Olympics will be held in Beijing. Of the 45% who did know, Australians were the most aware at 94%, followed by the French at 71% and Singaporeans with 68%.

A 45% overall awareness rate is something that Olympic sponsors and marketers should be “quite pleased with,” said Jan Hofmeyr, director of innovation for Synovate’s brand & communications practice.

“China's games are a little different to past efforts in terms of sponsors and their marketing programs. Many have lower market shares in China and hope the Olympic sponsorship will springboard their efforts in this enormous market. Given this focus, awareness across the rest of the world is icing on the cake.”

When asked if they noticed sponsors of the Olympic Games, 63% said yes, with the awareness factor in post-Olympic countries reaching 42% in Australia, 51% in the U.S. and 78% in Germany.

Respondents were evenly divided on the idealism versus cynicism scale. Half agreed the games are all about the money and half disagreed with the statement that “at the end of the day, the games are more about making money than a commitment to excellence in sport.”

Europeans were more likely to be cynics. The French (64%), Poles (61%) and Serbians (60%) were fairly sure it is all about the money. Malaysians also agreed at 58%. More idealistic, or perhaps more accepting, are the Americans (43%), Australians (39%), Indians (38%) and Dutch (34%).

“Europeans are more likely to think 'it's all about money' in something of a backlash against excessive commercialization. In the U.S., by contrast, people expect things to be commercially exploited. It's an often-celebrated part of the culture,” Mr. Hofmeyr said.

Beijing has been in the press a lot more than usual with the run up to the games. The city's pollution is a major concern, so it's not surprising that 53% of survey respondents rated pollution as one of the main challenges. Security is also an issue, with 49% saying it would be a challenge for China.

Language was named a challenge for Beijing by 47% of respondents, followed closely by traffic congestion at 46%. Of the 12 countries surveyed, only 0.1% cited likely problems with food, hygiene and cultural differences.

Are there benefits to hosting the Games? A resounding 'yes' was the answer from the world's consumers. A scant 3% of respondents said there would be absolutely no benefits to staging the games in their country.

The 82% who foresaw economic benefits for their country hosting the games was a striking figure, Mr. Hofmeyr said. “People seem positively disposed to hosting the games, no matter what economists might say."

The Thais felt the most strongly about the potential benefits with 91% ready to open their doors to the world. Many people also felt their country would be better known to the rest of the world (66% overall) if it sponsored the games.

The U.S. and Australia--countries with experience in hosting the games--felt strongly that being hosts instills national pride, at 75% and 74%, respectively.

Regarding Olympic athletes, 63% felt that if their country hosted the games, it would be a boost for their sportsmen and women, although more than a third of respondents agreed that results were predictable. With many experts expecting China to challenge the U.S. for most medals won for the first time, this may be a top-of-mind issue in the lead up to the 2008 Olympic Games.

The Synovate study found that respondents from those countries that tend to do well at the games still think the results are unpredictable, such as the U.S. (82%), Germany (66%) and Australia (63%). Those countries that do not bring home a consistently high medal count did feel that the same countries always win. These included Thailand, where 63% of respondents said results were predictable, Malaysia (56%) and Singapore (41%).

"These countries are world-players in many non-sporting fields but do not dominate at events like the Olympics. So they have a sense of the sporting powers as being completely dominant,” Mr. Hofmeyr said.
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