The number, type, variety, and frequency of Beijing 2008 Olympics’ advertisements is simply astounding. In the lead up to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, I don’t remember nearly so many advertisements relating to the Olympics. Granted, I wasn’t in Georgia or even Atlanta, but then again, here I’m not in Beijing either. I was, however, in Athens just a few weeks before the 2004 Olympics there and the number of Olympics-related advertisements doesn’t even come close to approaching that of Beijing’s Games.
There are corporate advertisements as well as public service advertisements and also simply the use of the Olympics name and/or logo. In the corporate world, everyone from global companies to local companies, health-enhancing to health-damaging products, computer, and pot noodles are all associating themselves with the Olympics. UPS is an official Olympics sponsor and is using its advertisements to convey its global presence, particularly its presence in China. (Notice the Bird’s Nest stadium. Picture from a Beijing subway station.)
Amway is also associating itself with the Olympics, to build an image of offering beneficial health products to Chinese consumers, suggesting that taking Amway’s products could make you healthy and fit like Olympics athletes. Chinese brands are also trying to create an association with the Olympics, such as Bank of China, pot noodles (yes, there really is an official pot noodles sponsor), a new housing development in Guilin, local Beijing-based brewer Yangjing (in addition to the two other beer companies, Budweiser and Tsingtao), and even southwestern China’s Guangxi Tobacco Company. Why the tobacco company is associating itself with the Olympics, I haven’t really figured out. Sure, the Olympics is a recognizable brand name and association with the Olympics might lend credibility to Guangxi Tobacco Co, but are cigarettes really meant to be associated with the world’s premier sporting event? Not to mention, smoking is going to be banned in all indoor locations in Beijing during the Olympics, so how do you sell cigarettes when there’s no smoking allowed? (Notice the use of the Bird’s Nest stadium, a smoke-free zone.)
Corporations aren’t the only entities tapping into the brand power of the Olympics to spread their message, the government is also taking advantage of the event. Public service campaigns even in cities as far away as Kunming are using the Olympics to help convey their message. From billboards showing how to queue to slogans encouraging community spirit and neighborliness, all convey their message with the help of the Olympics. Everywhere you look, you are reminded of the Olympics: the Beijing Babies are on China Mobile recharge cards, store windows display the 5-ring logo, even seat covers come imprinted with the Beijing 2008. Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania wasn’t even too far away escape Beijing Olympics ads.
The English-language Beijing 2008 Olympics website agrees that advertisements featuring the Olympics are numerous. So why are there so many advertisements and reminders of the Olympics? Because it’s an important event. Perhaps all the references to the Olympics attest to the Chinese people’s pride in holding such an event and its rare opportunity to showcase China and all its glory to the world. Perhaps because this is the single most important globally-watched event that China can control and use to make a positive impression on the world. Perhaps the Beijing Organizing Committee has allowed more sponsors and suppliers for these games than either Atlanta or Athens allowed. Perhaps advertising is just that much more prominent in China than in Greece, but certainly not compared to the US. What else explains the fact Olympics advertising has been prolific in the lead up to the Beijing 2008 Olympics Games?