Advertising, Public Relations, and the 2008 Beijing Olympics

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Case 1: Advertising, Public Relations, and the 2008 Beijing Olympics: The Assignment

Overview: The Chinese government left nothing to chance in its quest to host the 2008 Olympic Games. After narrowly losing its 1993 hosting bid, the Chinese government hired several public relations (PR) firms and consultants, including U.S.-based Weber Shandwick and Bell Pottinger, a British firm. The investment in PR paid off: The International Olympics Committee named China as the host of the 2008 games. In addition to targeting the Chinese government, activists also set their sights on Carrefour, Coca-Cola, Lenovo, McDonald’s, and other global companies that spent tens of millions of dollars on advertising and public relations campaigns associated with the Games and the Olympic torch relay. These A-list Olympics sponsors were forced to take a proactive approach to PR as well.

Adidas is the second largest world seller of sport shoes, after Nike. Adidas’ advertising campaigns usually involves famous names in sport. Adidas is trying to unseat Nike from the position of industry leader by launching the new Adidas 1 which is said to be an “intelligent shoe” and by involving David Beckham, a famous football (soccer) player, in its advertisements.

1. Why did the Chinese government hire a Western public relations firm to work on the 2008 Beijing Olympics?

2. Why do protesters and activists target events such as the Olympics?

3. Does the opportunity to reach a global audience by advertising during the Olympics offset the potential for bad publicity?

4. Do you think the companies identified in this case did a good job anticipating and responding to the protests?
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