Lenovo Launches Olympics-Themed Online PC Auctions

Lenovo began counting down the remaining weeks to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games with the first of several online PC auctions it plans to hold worldwide. While the computer company's participation in the Olympic Games and donations to charitable causes aim to draw positive attention, some think the short-lived campaign could send a negative message instead.

The marketing and ad campaigns vary worldwide, but will stretch across print, online, and in some countries, television. In the past few weeks, a campaign called "Castaway" broke in Australia, connected to local retailers and promotions. Print advertising features athletes tied to specific countries, such as Libby Lenton in Australia and Liu Xiang in China.

Olympic Torch Relay and Olympic notebook-themed spots are currently airing on national TV in China. Other ads in various countries will roll out in the upcoming months.

Lenovo is sponsoring China Central Television's 500-day countdown program with daily commercials. The 10-second spots for China's main broadcaster include the countdown to the Olympic Games, the 155th day away from the Olympic Games.



The first of three online auctions in the United States began Monday. Through April 2, consumers can bid on a "Cloud of Promise" limited-edition notebook at lenovohopefundauctions.com. The PC, autographed by Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, provides an opportunity to bid and own a part of Olympic history. The remaining two auctions in the United States take place on July 8 and July 29.

Bidders are directed to a country-specific listing where they will find additional information about the notebook PC and bidding process. The auctions are hosted on eBay in the United States. Bidders are pre-qualified to bid in U.S. currency through Kompolt, an online agency focused on charity auctions. Consumers can only purchase Olympic torch-themed notebook PCs for use in their designated countries due to export restrictions and policies.

A total of 34 online auctions will take place worldwide in Japan, Australia, United Kingdom, France, Russia, Hong Kong, Argentina, China, India, Brazil and Canada. The notebook PCs have been autographed by various Lenovo "athlete ambassadors," such as Gail Emms, badminton, Great Britain, 2004 Olympic silver medalist; Eamon Sullivan, swimming, Australia, 2004 Olympian; and Xavier Rohart, sailing, France, 2004 Olympic bronze medalist.

Lenovo's notebook cover features swirls of silver against red. The company has added the Olympic Torch-themed design to notebook PCs that sell in the markets auctioning the computers. For example, some countries might auction off the Lenovo 3000 V200 notebooks with the special Olympic Torch-themed cover, while in China those who win the auction receive the Tianyi F21 notebook.

Lenovo plans to distribute 100% of the proceeds from the online auctions through the Lenovo Hope Fund to select philanthropies, including Right to Play.

Sending the correct message might be trickier than first believed. Forrester Senior Analyst Peter Kim calls Lenovo's Beijing 2008 Olympic Games promotion "a crime of opportunity" for the Chinese PC manufacturer.

Successful campaigns can live on longer than the event. Kim learned this while working on marketing campaigns at sporting goods company Puma from 2001 through 2004.

A limited marketing budget put a kink in plans to sponsor U.S. Olympic athletes during the games in Athens, Greece, so the company sponsored Jamaican athletes in the sprinting event instead. Since sprinting is a year-round sport, some were less than pleased to ink Puma as a one-time sponsor. "It's like saying you only care about soccer during the World Cup," he says.

Short-lived events tend to fizzle out. Tying Lenovo's Olympic Games promotion with a social network community would keep the PCs top of mind long after the games conclude, Kim suggests. "Get a burst for two weeks, or kick-start a community and hopefully, there's a long-term strategy behind it that gets people excited," he says. "Spend the money for the big promotion, but then capitalize on the value by sending them to a community with an ongoing experience, rather than wait another four years to say, 'Surprise, here we are again'."

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