On Their Marks: With a Year to Go, Sponsors Tout '08 Olympic Ties

Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch Among Those Running Countdown Campaigns Before Start of Beijing Games

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BEIJING (AdAge.com) -- Marketers from Coca-Cola Co. and Anheuser-Busch to a Taiwanese noodle maker are rushing to take advantage of the one-year countdown to the start of the Olympic Games in Beijing on Aug. 8, 2008.
Uni-President's ads promote sports in rural schools.
Uni-President's ads promote sports in rural schools.

Last week Coca-Cola blitzed Beijing with a "One Year Out" outdoor campaign. More than 50 poster designs appear in 2,008 bus shelters, taking up about half the city's bus-shelter ad space. The two-week campaign was created by Red Lounge, a unit set up by Coke in China with roster agencies including Leo Burnett Worldwide, Starcom MediaVest Group, interactive shop WWWins and outdoormedia company Heartland.

Anheuser-Busch wrapped up a monthlong tour of 1,500 cyclists from factories, schools and government organizations to tout its Olympic sponsorship. The 11-city tour was accompanied by a red Budweiser van carrying Chinese pop stars who performed at beer-garden stops set up by A-B with Olympic branding. The tour earned A-B two carefully staged and notarized Guinness world records, for a bike tour with the most participants and for the biggest red flag.

First Taiwanese sponsor
Also jumping on the Olympics bandwagon is Uni-President Enterprises, an instant-noodle giant that is the first Taiwanese company to sponsor the 2008 Olympics. Uni-President was selected over rival noodle makers from mainland China and Japan, despite longstanding political tension between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan, which Beijing views as a renegade Chinese province.

The official noodle sponsorship is a coup for Uni-President. Chinese consume more than half of the world's instant noodles, spending nearly $4 billion last year on nearly 50 billion units. Produced in a seemmingly endless number of flavors, such as stewed sparerib and sour-hot beef, instant noodles are a staple for most Chinese families, especially budget-minded housewives and legions of blue-collar workers. Prices range from a penny to 13ยข per packet. About a third of Uni-President's 2006 sales of $3.1 billion were from Taiwan; most of the rest came from China.

The Olympics "are the biggest marketing opportunity for all advertisers" in China, said Shanghai-based Canon Wu, chief creative director of Can Create, which developed the campaign. Can Create was set up by McCann Erickson in China earlier this year.
Canon Wu, chief creative director of Can Create
Canon Wu, chief creative director of Can Create

To draw attention to its instant-noodle business amid a sea of other Olympic marketing campaigns, Taiwan's largest package-food company has created a series of striking images that encourage schoolchildren to participate more often in sports and identify kids who have significant sports talent, in preparation for future Olympics.

Charity event
The program was launched in May 2006 with a charity event in Beijing to support sports facilities in 1,000 rural schools. TV, print, outdoor and online advertising and point-of-sales materials made their debuts this summer using the tagline "A better mian." (In Mandarin, mian means both "face" and "noodle.")

The ads depict young Chinese engaged in sports such as weight lifting, running, table tennis, badminton and gymnastics. Half of each image shows students in clean, modern athletic environments with vibrant colors. The other half shows the same scene but depicts poverty-stricken rural life against a black-and-white background. The campaign will run through 2008. The effort is connected to Project Hope, a program founded in Anhui province in 1989 to pump funding and equipment into thousands of impoverished primary schools in China's countryside.

Participating in the Olympics is "out of the question" for kids at these schools, Ms. Wu said. "Uni-President decided to help bring sports into these schools and help future Olympic-gold-medal hopefuls have the equipment to develop their skills -- or at least to instill an athletic spirit in the students."
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