Why Games' mascot matters

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BEIJING - China expects to break an Olympic record in sales of licensed products for the 2008 Beijing Games, spurred by an extensive marketing campaign for the Olympics mascot, officials said Thursday.

Officials with the Beijing Olympic organizing committee refused to give details about the mascot, or perhaps mascots, though earlier this year about a half-dozen candidates from the panda to the Tibetan antelope were under consideration.

But Chinese leaders will announce the result of the highly secretive selection process on Nov. 11, the 1,000-day mark before the Games, officials said.

"The launch of the mascot will carry sales of Olympic products to a new height," Lai Ming, director of the organizing committee's marketing department, said at a news conference.

Mascots are the most marketable symbols in the Olympics business. The choice is important as sales of licensed products helps organizers defray the costs of staging the Games.

Lai did not provide projected sales figures for 2008. But recent Olympics have generated more than US$300 million in sales of licensed products, many of them emblazoned with the mascot, and local organizers keep about 10% to 15% of that in royalties.

More than 300 licensed products bearing the mascot will go on sale at 188 authorized venues across China the day after the announcement, from fluorescent pens that cost eight yuan (US$1) to souvenirs made with precious metals for tens of thousands of yuan, said Lai.

-"China plans extensive marketing effort for Olympic mascot products," Mainichi Daily News, Japan, Nov. 10, 2005

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