Faaez Samadi
Oct 16, 2018

Digital games: Beijing Olympics

The equity gained for ‘Brand China’ in opening itself up and allowing visitors to experience what was once such an introspective and isolated nation was worth it.

Channel changer: Beijing 2008 online coverage recorded 8.2 billion page views and 628 million video streams.
Channel changer: Beijing 2008 online coverage recorded 8.2 billion page views and 628 million video streams.

It was the moment China truly announced itself on the world stage. The concept of an Asian summer Olympic Games wasn’t new; the first was Tokyo 1964 and then Seoul 1988. But the manner in which Beijing 2008 was exhibited to the world was ground-breaking, both from a branding and promotional standpoint, and a technological one. 

From the marvel of the sporting arenas constructed, to the manicuring of China’s capital city, right down to closing hundreds of factories to ensure the air was clear for those competing and attending, Beijing did not miss a beat to show itself off to the world as the beacon of Chinese economic might. 

Numerous reports estimate the cost to China’s public purse was US$44 billion, but some would argue the equity gained for ‘Brand China’ in opening itself up and allowing visitors to experience what was once such an introspective and isolated nation was worth it. They say first impressions count for a lot, and the spectacular opening ceremony lives in the memory of those watching even today. 

From a branding and sponsorship perspective, Beijing 2008 was a key moment for international brands to make a mark, or even their first foray, into the burgeoning Chinese middle-class wallet. Despite socio-political concerns, which often cause consumers pause when considering brands, businesses lined up to partner with the event. This consisted of 12 global or ‘TOP’ sponsors including Visa, GE, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, and 51 domestic sponsors. 

Beijing 2008 was a key moment for international brands to make a mark, or even their first foray, into the burgeoning Chinese middle-class wallet.

But perhaps most significantly, Beijing 2008 was the first truly digital Olympic Games. According to official figures, the Games were broadcast in 220 territories with a potential audience of 4.3 billion. A significant portion of its distribution was online, with figures estimating 8.2 billion page views and more than 628 million video streams. 

In China, CCTV.com broadcast more than 4,000 hours of the Games on its website, compared to around 1,300 hours broadcast on television. In the US, NBCOlympics.com saw 72 million streams viewed, with more than 2,000 hours of live coverage. The BBC website reached 13 million viewers consuming 50 million video streams; the International Olympic Committee’s YouTube channel, launched for Beijing 2008, garnered 21 million views; the numbers go on and on. 

Beijing 2008, somewhat surprisingly, turned a profit of more than RMB1 billion (US$146 million), according to China’s National Audit Office. While that figure may be open to interpretation, what is unquestionable is the legacy that the Beijing 2008 Olympics Games left for China from a business, branding and digital media perspective. 

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