When the world's greatest sporting and marketing event crosses paths with one of the best economic growth stories ever, the result could be the opportunity of a lifetime for corporate sponsors of the Beijing Olympics.
Companies are stepping up, with an eye on China's increasingly prosperous consumers.
US healthcare company Johnson & Johnson, sponsoring an Olympic Games for the first time as a global partner, ran a contest to reward acts of caring and community service with free trips to the Olympics in August. Owen Rankin, the company's vice president of Olympic sponsorship, said it was drawn by the size of China's market. "This is the right time to do it," said Rankin.
The Beijing Olympics and the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, in 2006 have already brought in about $4.4 billion in broadcasting rights and sponsorship deals alone. This figure is greater than the total revenues generated by the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.
"This will be the most successful marketing program ever in the Games," said Christopher Renner, president of sporting consultant Helios Partners in China. "No question about it."
German sports shoe maker Adidas, one of 11 Cooperative Partners of the Beijing Games, will pay $100 million to use the Olympics logo in China.
There are 12 global sponsors, who have marketing rights to use the Olympics logo globally, and 11 China sponsors, who have rights to use the Olympics logo in China.
While Adidas is paying a hefty sum for its sponsorship, some companies pay in kind.
Atos Origin, a global sponsor building the computer network for the Olympics, is believed to be paying a combination of cash and services for its sponsorship deal. The International Olympics Committee does not release details on how much sponsors pay.
Lenovo Group, China's top PC maker and the only Chinese company to be a global partner of the Beijing Games, aims to show off its technological power in computer products and build its brand globally much as Samsung did at its home Olympics in Seoul in 1988.
Lenovo designed the high-tech Olympic torch, which is constructed to burn brightly even on Mount Everest where it is scheduled to pass as part of the 137,000-km relay route around the world.