Lenovo joins Olympic sponsors' club
Lenovo, the country's largest computer maker, signed a milestone deal with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday, becoming the first Chinese company to join the elite club of Olympic sponsors.
Lenovo is the 11th and the last to join The Olympic Partner (TOP) programme for the 2005-08 period. The deal will include sponsorship of both the 2006 Turin Winter Games and the 2008 Beijing Summer Games.
"It is a significant day because Lenovo Group is the first Chinese company to become a global partner of the IOC's TOP programme, thus becoming an important member in the Olympic family," said IOC President Jacques Rogge in a video speech during the signing ceremony.
Companies that have joined the programme have become worldwide partners of the IOC, organizing committees for the Olympic Games as well as over 200 National Olympic Committees.
In return, they are allowed to use Olympic intellectual property for marketing and promotions.
"This is a huge moment for Lenovo," said Liu Chuanzhi, chairman of Lenovo Group, formerly known as Legend Group. "This is a huge historic responsibility and I hope we are able to achieve it successfully."
The value of the Lenovo deal has not been disclosed. "This is a business secret and I cannot figure how much it is," said Gerhard Heiberg, a member of the IOC's Executive Board and chairman of the IOC marketing commission.
The previous tranche of the TOP programme, which ran from 2001 to 2004, is valued at more than US$500 million collected from 10 TOP sponsors.
However, Lenovo can fulfill its sponsorship requirements in kind besides cash backing.
That means it will become the sole computer technology equipment provider for the two upcoming Olympic Games.
It is estimated that 4,500 desktop computers will be needed during the Turin Games and the figure could double during the Beijing Games.
Heiberg said Lenovo was the right partner they were looking for -- although the company is not as well-known as other names on the list including the likes of Coca-Cola and McDonald's.
"We are looking at the strategy, progress, services and management," Heiberg said. "I think Lenovo matches all of our requirements."
He said the TOP programme which usually contains 10-12 companies is closed and the IOC does not intend to add more.
"Now the number is up to 11 and that is enough. We are very happy Lenovo is the eleventh."
Lenovo is hoping the deal will help increase its overseas sale, which now constitutes a small portion of the company's business selling over 3 million machines per year.
"The deal is a good base for us to go global," said Yang Yuanqing, Lenovo's chief executive officer.