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Two-time Torchbearer Promotes Chinese Brands
    2008-08-01 22:45:53     CRIENGLISH.com

It is quite common for TV viewers to see advertisements for products such as Coca Cola, Sony and Adidas during major sports events, such as the ATP Grand Slam, the European Football Championships and the Olympic Games. However, some Chinese advertisers are gradually catching on to this idea too.

In today's show, CRI's reporter Luo Dan will tell you the story of a two-time torchbearer who helps make that possible.

A torchbearer usually recalls with excitement the moment he or she ran with the flame, but Chris Renner is among the very few people able to compare this with a similar previous experience.

Renner is president of Helios Partners China, a Beijing-based sports marketing company. In early June, he participated in the 2008 Olympic torch relay in central China's Hubei province. He recalls some interesting experiences when he first held the Olympic torch in Norway 14 years ago.

President of Helios Partners China Chris Renner in an office of the American Chamber of Commerce in China July 30, 2008. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]

"I participated in 1994 in Lillehammer in Norway during the winter Games. Just before the Games started we ran outside Oslo a few days before the Games. Literally out there in the countryside it was me, some torchbearers and the escorts. And as we ran, a farmer or two would come out and watch it. Some cows would watch too, and that was it. When we finished, it was a group of us. We went into a tavern, had a few drinks, told some stories and said Goodbye. But it was fun as well, because it was relaxed and really caught the sense of the Games in Norway."

Close contact with the Olympic torch is not exactly the subject that Renner would like to show off. The athlete-turned-businessman from Indiana, in the United States, has a long association with the Olympic Games. In 1991, he began his career with a Swiss company involved in Olympic sponsorship programs, including The Olympic Partner or TOP. Some of his renowned clients were Visa, Coca Cola, and IBM.

Several years later, Renner moved to Hong Kong and set up the Asia-Pacific operation of the Swiss company. From then on, he got closely involved in sports marketing in Asia, including in China.

"From there I got more quote unquote "Asian", in the sense of focusing on Asian sports like the Asian Games. We even worked with the Chinese Football Association to create the Team China program. So it's been a long continuation since I started it in the early 90s"

Renner's major business, Helios Partners China, was established after Beijing won the bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games. The company's top priority is providing consultancy to potential sponsors of the Games.

Few people doubt big names like Adidas's ability to be an Olympic sponsor. However, Renner says that is not the highlight of his work. Instead, he stresses the company's promotion of Chinese brands, including computer maker Lenovo.

"What we try to do is to sit down with the clients. Our first client, probably the most important, is Lenovo. We got together with them very early, before they decided to become a sponsor. We helped them look at their overall business objective and strategy, and decided that the Olympics were a good way for them to promote their brand and products- not only in China but overseas. And once we decided that the Olympics were a good way to do that by using the Five Rings and so on, we then looked at various ways they could reach out to their consumers."

To promote Chinese brands overseas is not easy. When Renner's company started consulting Lenovo, the latter had just taken over IBM ThinkPad. A lot of questions were raised in foreign countries about whether the Chinese company could deliver quality. Renner's solution was to introduce Lenovo into big sporting events.

"They used the Torino 2006 Winter Games to show 'hey, we're providing ten thousand computers and related products in probably the most intense two-week period you can have, testing it from administrative to result systems and we delivered now. Not one glitch, nothing broke down. And we were a major part of the process in the IT system.' It was a very great showcase on a global stage to show that Lenovo could still deliver good products."

In a similar manner, Renner suggested Taiwan-based IT company BenQ get involved in the European Football Championship in 2004, with a bunch of different digital consumer electronic products. As a result, the Chinese brand established its name in the European market.

Though Renner is now preoccupied with coordinating activities for 2008 Olympic sponsors, he hints at a more ambitious plan after the Olympic Games.

"If you look around China today, whether it is Sinopec, Bank of China, TCL or Haier -all of these companies have the opportunity to step up after the Games and whether it is with European football, or the World Cup or sponsoring a basketball event in the U.S., or a football team in England - all of those are grand opportunities for them to make themselves better known."

Renner explains that all these companies are capable of paying the 60 to 70 million US dollars Olympic sponsorship fee and it is a good idea to showcase Chinese brands' prowess when they appear in the same sports venues alongside Coca Cola, Visa and Samsung.

(Reporter/Editor: Luo Dan)



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What do you think will impress foreign visitors the most during the Beijing Olympics?
The friendliness of the Beijing people
The Water Cube and other Olympic venues
The Forbidden City
The Great Wall
Beijing "siheyuan" (Chinese traditional courtyard houses)
Peking Opera
Wangfujing Street
Beijing Roast Duck