Torching the Media Competition

Coordinating communications around the sponsorship of the Olympic Games is an immense challenge in and of itself. Imagine, then, what Lenovo and its agency partner Ketchum faced when the preliminary stage of their Beijing Olympics sponsorship—the torch relay—was tainted by social and political unrest surrounding China’s relationship with neighboring Tibet.

As the torch made its way around the world, stopping in cities including Tokyo, Berlin, Moscow and San Francisco, protestors came out of the woodwork, thus shifting media coverage away from the cooperative spirit of the Olympics. Thus, the team had to engage local media and consumers with positive messages. A few of their strategies:

•    Philanthropy: “We coordinated a philanthropy that was driven online,” says Kerry Slatkoff, VP/director of client services at Ketchum, referring to the limited-edition, torch-themed notebook PCs, signed by Olympic athletes, which were auctioned on eBay. Proceeds went to Right to Play and Sichuan province earthquake relief efforts, boosting fan bids and media interest.
•    Friendly competition: To engage audiences around the world, Lenovo partnered with Google during the torch relay, creating a contest with a big-time prize: a chance to carry the torch in one of the legs of the relay. “We asked users to create video submissions explaining why they were ‘new thinkers’ deserving the opportunity to carry the torch,” Slatkoff says. The team selected 20 finalists, and their videos were posted on YouTube to vie for public votes.