Staff Reporters
Jan 28, 2022

The Beijing Olympics: A non-starter for global sponsors

SHANGHAI ZHAN PODCAST: Beijing-based sports-marketing expert Mark Dreyer says the games will see largely Chinese brands targeting the China market, with many employing Chinese-American skier/model Eileen Gu.

Eileen Gu has contracts with nearly two dozen brands.
Eileen Gu has contracts with nearly two dozen brands.

“When it comes to sports sponsorships,” says China sports expert Mark Dreyer, “the Beijing Winter Olympics is like no other.”

Dreyer, columnist for SportsBusiness and SupChina and the author of Sporting Superpower, argues that political fallout and the fear of being potentially blacklisted because of a single unfavorable tweet are keeping most global brands away. There are 13 Worldwide Olympic Partners, including Coca-Cola, P&G, Omega, Toyota, Samsung, and Alibaba. "The fallout has very little to do with Covid," says Dreyer.

But the Winter Games will be a windfall for local Chinese brands partnering or sponsoring the games, such as Anta, Yili, or Tsingtao Beer. "There are major opportunities for local brands marketing to Chinese consumers, including those Chinese brands sponsoring athletes,” says Dreyer.

Many Chinese local brands are getting behind the person who could potentially become the face of the Winter Olympics, Chinese-American freelance skiing sensation Eileen Gu, who decided in 2019 to ski for China.

Nowadays, the face of the athlete, known as Gu Ailing in Chinese, is seen everywhere. According to Guangdong Sports Channel, Gu is now the spokesperson for 23 brands, including Estee Lauder, Anta, Yili, Luckin’ Coffee and China Mobile. Luxury brands Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, and IWC have also signed the skier/model. A new Gu endorsement is estimated to run about 15 million yuan ($2.5 million).

“The fact that Eileen Gu is going to Stanford probably resonates more positively with Chinese parents than winning gold medals,” says Dreyer, “because they may see sports as a potential vehicle to getting into a top school. 

“Gu will do well from the endorsements, but she will inspire millions in China to take up winter sports,” he adds.

Mark Dreyer's full interview is available on the Shanghai Zhan podcast, a "raw, lively, and regular debate about China tech, advertising, creativity and the intersection of it all", hosted by Ali Kazmi and Bryce Whitwam. The podcast is now available now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Xiao Yu Zho and via RSS.

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