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Dress Up Athletes... or Correspondents?

In 1992, Lining had already started its sponsorship of the Chinese Olympic delegation and became the first Chinese supplier of athletic equipment to it. But during the Olympic games to be held in Beijing in 2008, Chinese athletes will all ultimately wear Adidas when they take the podiums to receive their medals. This is because in the war over Olympic sponsorship, Lining could not keep up with Adidas.

According to one industry insider, Adidas paid a record-breaking $80 million for that privelege. This figure astonishes Lining's chief executive Zhang Zhiyong, as it is higher than Lining's total yearly market expenditures.

"Outspend Adidas and Nike? That's an impossibility. But it doesn't matter, as we have plenty of good ideas," said Zhang. He admits that Lining foresaw this, and in preparation the firm began an early campaign to find an unprecedented method of marketing the Lining brand, and effectively use limited resources to accomplish large tasks.

Lining has already begun this, says Zhang. "We've already signed a contract with CCTV-5. Starting January 1, all sports hosts and correspondents will wear Lining clothing. This will continue until December 31 2008, and will include Olympic broadcasts."

In Olympic marketing, it is said that every $100 million spent will increase brand popularity by one percent. For official sponsors it can reach three percent. Because of this, the threshold for becoming an Olympic sponsor is far beyond the means of most Chinese firms.

According to one employee from CCTV-5's marketing department, Lining's proposal was surprising; most marketing campaigns they facilitate target athletes or involve in-game ads.

According to the contract, Lining will supply high-end clothing, shoes, and accessories to all hosts and correspondents appearing on CCTV-5 sports broadcasts from 2007 to 2008. This includes the sole rights to all Olympic broadcasts.

Zhang says that Lining has also hired image consultants to work with CCTV-5 on every step of the design and modeling process.

In 2005, Lining's total sales were $300 million. By comparison, after Adidas bought Reebok, its global sales for the same year reached $11.8 billion. Nike's was $13.7 billion

During the Olympics, even Nike relies on clever strategies to make big gains in marketing. During the Atlanta Games in 1996, Nike set up athletic centers in the Olympic City and Olympic Park for spectators. Nike also hired college students to distribute Nike cardholders for spectators to carry their tickets in. This caused many people to assume that Nike was the official sponsor, not Reebok.

"The success of corporate sponsorship depends on how the TV cameras are used by the media. And each time there is a broadcast, every host and correspondent will be wearing Lining clothing," stresses Zhang.

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