Utilize a TOP Olympic sponsorship to help a well-known Chinese brand go global
As the #1 technology company in its category in China, Lenovo was looking to grow their brand globally. They had recently purchased IBMs Desktop and Notebook divisions when I got their call. Even though they were already selling quality solutions in China, and now had purchased a highly reputable product line that would most certainly boost their global perception, Lenovo leadership knew they needed to do more.
As a sponsor for the 2006 and 2008 Olympic Games, this company aligned its brand with Olympic ideals. They also had an opportunity to reach a global audience that may not have paid attention otherwise.
THE NEED: As a TOP Olympic sponsor with superior sponsorship rights for the International Olympic Torch Relay, Lenovo was in the midst of coordinating its sales and marketing efforts around the globe. With former IBMers (now Lenovo employees) already well-positioned all over the world, Lenovo wanted to make sure cultural and corporate procedural differences wouldn’t hinder the momentum they’d been building.
Lenovo needed someone to lead a global coordinated effort:
- an expert in building marketing approaches and putting them into action
- someone who understood the global ‘IBM way’ of doing business
- the person to live and work alongside the Lenovo Olympic marketing team in Beijing
- a professional to work with IOC teams to gain approvals for branded efforts and represent Lenovo at local BOCOG meetings in Beijing.
As a professional marketer and a former global brand manager at IBM, I was brought on board to develop and coordinate all Olympic Torch Relay communications and outreach programs outside of the domestic (China) torch relay.
THE APPROACH: Working with the China team, Olympic officials, athletes, consultants and vendors, I coordinated the go-to-market strategy in 20+ countries, obtained buy-in from cross-functional corporate teams and Geo leads, and activated a global effort.
- Adhered to official approvals process for Olympic-themed communications and materials
- Supervised the country torchbearer competitions and nominations; identifying the torchbearer qualifications so that they met the Olympic ideals as well as TOP Sponsor ideals for their brand
- Coordinated global activation marketing with country managers and executive teams:
Athlete campaigns | Olympic hospitality programs | Online/IMC/PR/internal communications | Partner co-marketing initiatives | Corporate marketing campaign integration | Liaise with the country (NOC) and city officials to develop the Torchbearer route and community engagement plan during the relay
- Developed the country-specific Torchbearer experience before, during and after their run:
Torchbearer nomination | Olympic uniforms | Relay Torchbearer hospitality and relationship building | Marketing & PR | Operational activities | Launch ceremony | Relay operation | Community celebration | Supported tactical implementation at all events
- Took advantage of opportunities for showcasing the brand in front of the thousands around each Olympic Torch Relay (OTR) route.
The days before the global Torch Relay and the months leading up to the Games were most challenging for a marketing campaign.
Political protests and death threats often dominated and altered the activation plan — and plans changed daily. There were many times the team was able to stay focused by remembering their core objectives for each Relay:
- Make sure each runner had a happy and memorable experience
- Engage with community; to feel connected to the journey of the flame and the torch
- Take advantage of every business and positive PR opportunity as possible
- Live by the Olympic spirit and adhere to Olympic ideals!
With challenges and barriers a daily and regular occurrence, the company was able to successfully communicate and demonstrate their promise of value to customers. Product was showcased, positive PR was captured in every country, and business partners came to the party.
Due to sponsor requirements and – most importantly the need for the brand to create goodwill – the activation team engaged with the local community in each country. With the intent for the community to feel connected to the journey of the flame and to the torch itself, prior to the relay we provided tools for Olympic educational activities in schools, held competitions at venues and online, and created diverse Olympic experiences during and after the relay itself. Community engagement was a very rewarding part of being a sponsor of the Games!
Called The Journey of Harmony, the international and domestic Relay lasted 130 days (starting on March 31, 2008 and finishing in Beijing on August 8, 2008 when the 2008 Summer Olympic Games began with the Torch Lighting Ceremony. The Olympic Torch was carried through destinations all over the world and throughout many of China’s cities and regions.
Lea-Ann adapted fast in the Chinese cultural environment and functioned effectively as a project manager for the Olympic International Torch Relay. She drove our Olympic marketing initiatives across 20+ countries; coordinating team members and working towards a common goal. When there was uncertainty and ambiguity, Lea-Ann was still able to drive the team towards a clear direction and energize members not to lose focus! Her contribution was quite significant for the success of our Olympic sponsorship of the Torch Relay!
Sharing the same client on an Olympic effort, our agency found Lea-Ann a joy to work with. She was responsive, knowledgeable, and gave clear direction thereby making us more productive in our responsibilities. Lea-Ann worked well under pressure and was able to keep a positive and upbeat attitude at all times. She worked extremely well with our team and we were lucky to have her as our contact. We wish more consultants were like her.