Lenovo bid for Olympics to create a global brand

Now the Chinese PC giant wants you to bid on Lenovo, literally

By Published on .

BEIJING -- To mark the six-month countdown to the 2008 Olympic Games, Chinese PC giant Lenovo launched a global online philanthropic program in London on Feb. 8. Lenovo is a global sponsor of the upcoming Summer Games in Beijing, as well as a worldwide partner of the Olympic Torch Relay.

The Beijing-based company will auction limited-edition notebook PCs inspired by the Lenovo-designed 2008 Olympic Torch. Many of the computers will be autographed by athletes sponsored by marketer, such as Gail Emms, a British badminton player; Australian swimmer Libby Lenton; American beach volleyball players Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh; and Chinese track-and-field star Liu Xiang.

Each week until August, as the torch travels around the world, Lenovo will begin an auction for the computers in a different country. Besides the U.K. the auction will run in the U.S., China, Japan, Australia, France, Russia, Hong Kong, Argentina, India, Brazil and Canada.

Bids can be made at www.lenovohopefundauctions.com in 10-day intervals for each market. Iin the final week of the program leading up to the games, 12 notebook PCs, one from each of the participating countries, will be auctioned. Thirty-six computers will be auctioned around the world.

All proceeds from the auction will be distributed through the Lenovo Hope Fund to charities such as Right to Play, an athlete-based organization that emphasizes sports to aid the development of children and youth in underprivileged areas of the world.

The auction is just the latest bid in Lenovo's long-term plan to become a global brand, an ambitious play that started with its takeover of IBM Corp.'s PC division for $1.25 billion in late 2005. Since then, it has come up with witty ad campaigns created by its three agencies, Ogilvy & Mather, JWT and Dentsu. It has improved its product portfolio with high-tech laptops, desktops and mobile phones. And, of course, it has invested tens of millions to become the only Chinese company that is a global sponsor of the Olympic Games, this year in Beijing and two years ago in Turin, Italy, and millions more to advertise its sponsorship.

The strategy appears to be working. Lenovo's worldwide market share of PCs shipped, according to IDC's third-quarter survey last year, was 8%, putting it in third place behind Hewlett-Packard and Dell. This year, it began selling computers under its own name -- rather than IBM's name -- in the U.S. and Europe for the first time, which meant jettisoning Big Blue's logo two years ahead of schedule.
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