Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
May 6, 2013

CASE STUDY: How Lenovo gained traction with marathon-marketing in China

MAINLAND CHINA - Lenovo has tried to expand the user base of its smartphones with the help of sports marketing, specifically in marathons.

wide player in 16:9 format. Used on article page for Campaign.


Last year, Lenovo aimed to expand its user base from between the ages of 20-45 to 16-60. Since this age range is very large, Lenovo wanted to find a different approach to marketing, specifically sports marketing.

Marathons are gaining popularity in China, and Lenovo hoped that by sponsoring marathons, more people would see the "temper" of the brand, as Lenovo has had a history of making handsets for more than 12 years. The product development process requires patience, persistence and tenacity—much like running a marathon.

Lenovo sponsored five marathons: Lanzhou International Marathon was the first in June 2012, followed by Beijing in October, Hangzhou in November, Shanghai in December and Xiamen in January 2013.


With the development of social media and smart devices, Lenovo wanted to add more dimensions to the sport using technology, so that it is easily accessible and highly inclusive for the general public.

Lenovo chose not to focus on professional runners but more on average people who get involved in the sport—the "doers" who bring to life Lenovo's brand value "For those who do". It created the LePhone Runner mobile app, what it calls "a marathon-oriented social sports system". By increasing the visibility of Lenovo smartphones and promoting their features through creative marketing via this app, the brand hoped to boost its favorability as a brand for younger people.

Insights into the young in China found them faced with unprecedented pressure from both work and life today. They are increasingly plagued by negative emotions, which most want to change, but are defeated by inertia.

Jogging, as the easiest and most convenient way to exercise, can keep spirits up. It can be fun as long as one has the company of friends. Marathons are just examples to encourage people to jog, and we are now at an era of "social sports", where it is no longer about staring at TV screens but about sharing thoughts with others on social media on happenings inside and outside the races that are more interesting, relevant and appealing.


The LePhone Runner is an application for runners with GPS technology and social sharing functions. The app can trace running routes and share them with other runners on Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, Renren and WeChat.

Any runner taking part in a Lenovo-sponsored marathon will be able to have his or her location traced through GPS and webcast online. In this way, internet users can follow the runners’ latest statuses through satellite maps and interact with them.    


Taking into consideration the ratings of various marathon events by the Chinese Athletics Association, based on the levels of participation and influence, Lenovo chose the following for its GPS webcast campaign: Beijing International Marathon on November 25, 2012, the Shanghai International Marathon on December 2, 2012 and the Xiamen International Marathon on January 5, 2013.

The participants included government officials, actors, actresses, well-known TV presenters, web celebrities, influential microbloggers and Lenovo employees. Of note, a CCTV presenters’ team consisted Yu Jia, He Wei, Sha Tong, Liu Jianhong and A Qiu. Lenovo made use of these popular personalities to convey to the younger target audience the concept of social sports. The LePhone Runner GPS webcast "wall" and Lenovo smartphones were also displayed on-site at the events.


The LePhone Runner app was accepted by runners and was downloaded more than 1 million times in the first six months since it was launched. After the three marathon events, the GPS webcast campaign registered a total of 195,000 page views and 12,590 interactions. In additiion, it logged more than 1,400 kilometres covered by VIP runners/campaign influencers.

CCTV's sports channel ran a story about the Lenovo LePhone Runner GPS marathon webcast in a sports-themed program. Print magazines such as ELLE and Runner’s World also devoted coverage to Lenovo’s marathon marketing promotions.

Many internet users said following the Lenovo LePhone Runner GPS marathon webcast online made them feel that they were running the races themselves, and reported that they decided to start jogging regularly themselves.

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