Lenovo turns to Olympics to boost profile
Updated: 2006-02-17 08:43
TURIN, Italy: The Lenovo Internet cafe in the Olympic Village seems to be a
marketer's dream. The Lenovo name is splashed on the wall, and each of the 34
work stations have athletes and trainers from Australia to Sweden tapping out
e-mails to friends and family.
Yet the users have little idea about the sponsor.
"No, no clue. Maybe it's an Internet provider?" said Andy Huppi, a massage
therapist for the Canadian men's ice hockey team. "They let us in, and we use
Athletes are not the only ones hoping the Olympics will bring them worldwide
Lenovo Group Ltd is one of world's largest computer makers, which acquired
IBM's personal computer business, but it's a household name mainly in China.
However, it is banking on an expensive Olympic sponsorship to help it become a
"We're using the Torino Games to establish ourselves as a global player,"
said Deepak Advani, Lenovo's chief marketing officer.
Lenovo is launching an ad campaign with three 30-second spots to air on NBC,
the network showing the Winter Games in the United States. It has endorsement
deals with 11 Olympic athletes from China, Europe and the United States. And
NBC's Olympics crew is leasing 1,000 Lenovo notebook and desktop computers,
giving Lenovo more chances to get its brand on TV.
As China's first and only global sponsor of the Olympics, Lenovo is joining
such well-known multinationals as Coca-Cola and McDonalds and is trying to
follow the Olympic marketing path blazed by other well-known Asian brands such
as Panasonic and Samsung.
Lenovo and the International Olympic Committee refuse to disclose how much
the company's sponsorship cost, but analysts estimate it paid US$80 million to
US$100 million in cash and services for the three-year cycle that covers the
Turin competition and the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
The deal gives Lenovo the right to affix the Olympic logo of five
interlocking rings on products and advertising worldwide. In return, Lenovo
provided thousands of servers, computers and monitors for the Turin venues and
other facilities. It set up seven Internet cafes like the one in the Olympic
Village and has had about 100 engineers on site, some of them living in Turin
for nearly two years.
The blitz is Lenovo's biggest marketing foray since it made headlines 15
months ago with the US$1.75 billion purchase of IBM's PC operation. The
acquisition is China's largest to date of a US business and a bold move for a
company founded 22 years ago as a commercial offshoot of a government research
In a sign of its global ambitions, Lenovo moved its headquarters from Beijing
to the New York City suburb of Purchase last year.
The adjustment has not been wholly smooth. Cultural barriers between the
Chinese employees and IBM holdovers, different work styles and a 12-hour time
difference between Beijing and New York have complicated integration, employees
"In the past, we could leave the office at 6 o'clock. Now we have dinner, and
by seven the conference calls start coming," said Alice Li, the Beijing-based
head of marketing and communications. "More and more we're figuring out how to
adapt and change to being an international company."
Lenovo has won positive reviews for updating the style and technology of
IBM's well-regarded ThinkPad notebook computer. Moreover, new product launches
are planned, including a data-backup system to guard against viruses, Advani
(China Daily 02/17/2006 page2)