Anita Davis
Apr 9, 2010

How can brands best exploit the Shanghai Expo 2010?

With the Shanghai World Expo set to launch in May, brands have been ramping up their marketing activity and revelling in the sponsorship and advertising freedom they were not afforded during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Shanghai Expo
Shanghai Expo
The Expo, which is expected to attract 70 million during its six-month duration - of which only two million are expected to come from overseas - is being regarded as a highly unregulated event in terms of marketing opportunities, at least in comparison to the Olympics, where the use of all Olympic-related branding had to be purchased.

“The Olympics was a two-week sporting event with wall-to-wall TV coverage. That’s why sponsorship was so expensive, and I don’t think you can put the Expo in the same category,” says Leon Choi, chairman of P&L Communications Group based in Shanghai.

In terms of branding opportunities, the Expo is an opportunity to interact with domestic Chinese companies first and foremost, so off-site tactics will play a key role. “Having exposure at the pavilions through sponsorship is one thing, but having it downtown in different ways is also valuable,” says Choi.

The Dutch delegation, for example, has its on-site pavilion but has also rented space in downtown Shanghai to host cultural activities where people will see it.

The City of Shanghai has invested in a US$45 billion facelift to refurbish roads and transportation and enhance its infrastructure. The city’s spend overshadows the amounts spent by the official pavilions, although even those are significant investments.

According to the Expo’s website, Saudi Arabia’s pavilion cost US$146.6 million; the USA pavilion USA pavilion is worth $61-million; and Canada, in collaboration with Cirque du Soleil, spent $43 million on its venue. Brands from Pepsi to Ikea to Shiseido also splurged big bucks to be part of the sponsorship action.

But for brands on a budget, there are alternative paths from the official sponsorship route, especially given that these multi-million dollar pavilions will likely be knocked down after 31 October.

Anyone can get in on the action without necessarily investing in a pavilion. The French city of Lille has foregone a pavilion and instead rented a Taoist temple on East Nanjing Road, using it as a business venue, eatery and art gallery. Other brands are leasing space downtown. Observers expect more fun initiatives to be kicked off closer to the event’s launch.

Budget opportunities are also available online. According to an internet word-of-mouth study by Ogilvy Public Relations and CIC, non-sponsors were the subject of more than 80 per cent of Expo-related buzz.

In terms of discussions related to the Expo, non-sponsor Sina was the most discussed brand as of December 2009, mentioned in 412 posts out of 2,493 examined. QQ, which is the official online sponsor of the event, came in second with 232.

“You can do all sorts to promote yourself around the Expo,” says Ghislain de Mareuil, partner at Shanghaivest. “The only thing you need to watch for on the internet is what is suspended in China - basically, don’t try to promote yourself on Facebook or Twitter if they’re blocked.”

Got a view?
Email [email protected]

This article was originally published in the 25 March 2010 issue of Media.
Campaign Asia

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