BIZCHINA> Editor Choice
Ambush marketing hurting sponsors
By Liu Jie (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-07-10 18:24

China Mobile's Olympic campaign has been so strong that just over half of consumers thought - incorrectly -that China Mobile was a sponsor of the Torch Relay.

China Mobile beat Coca-Cola, 51 percent, with fellow Torch Relay sponsor Lenovo, 48 percent, not far behind. Samsung, the remaining torch sponsor, lagged somewhat, cited by only three out of 10 consumers.

Consumer confusion is further highlighted by incorrect associations between the creative campaigns and the celebrities appearing in them.

Ambush marketing hurting sponsors

Nielsen asked respondents to identify which celebrities had appeared in which brand advertisements. The highest recall was for movie star Ge You's appearance for China Mobile, with eight out of 10 respondents making the connection.

Liu Xiang's appearance for Coca-Cola ranked second as 62 percent. However, only two in 10 recalled his appearance in Lenovo's advertising, not much more than the 15 percent who wrongly associated Liu Xiang with Pepsi.

Likewise, the use of basketball star Yao Ming and diver Guo Jingjing by McDonald's failed to stick in consumer's minds, with only 16 percent and 11 percent respectively making the connection.

The point that consumers may be overwhelmed by a cacophony of Olympic messages is further illustrated by confusion over campaign themes.

Of those who claimed to have seen Adidas advertising, 42 percent thought it was about "Adidas supporting the 2008 Olympic torch relay", compared with 28 percent who thought it involved a "famous celebrity with a humorous storyline", which is actually Visa's campaign, compared to only 16 percent who thought it was about the "Chinese nation supporting the Chinese Olympic team", which was correct.

The majority of respondents who claimed to have seen Visa's advertising also linked it with the torch relay.

GE's distinctive environmental theme appears to have resonated with many, with 39 percent linking GE's strategy with the environment compared with 30 percent who wrongly relate GE with the torch relay.

"While Olympic brands will be anticipating a significant return on their sponsorship investment, it is clear they cannot rest on their laurels. In order for Olympic sponsorship activation to be successful, sponsors will need creative and eye-catching communication if they are going to cut through the inevitable advertising clutter and truly register with consumers," added Basil-Jones.

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