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China Exclusive: Companies try to tie export products to Olympics
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15:17, April 21, 2008

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Visitors at the ongoing Canton fair, China's largest import and export exhibition, are surprised to see a booth whose only adornment is a narrow door on a huge wall and a logo of the 2008 Olympics.

A line under the logo says: "Official leather footwear supplier of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games." Curious foreign buyers are swarming through the narrow door to see the actual products.

"The Olympics logo says it all. From quality to style, from history to reputation, we believe we are the best," said a man at the booth, Lu Jia, a sales manager with the Aokang Group, one of China's biggest shoe manufacturers.

Aokong has spent heavily to tie its goods to the Games. A company must pay at least 16 million yuan (about 2.3 million U.S. dollars) to be an official supplier, according to the Beijing Olympic Committee.

The company is not the only one at the fair, which dates back half a century and usually does about 37 billion U.S. dollars in business, to use the Olympic marketing strategy to lure foreign buyers.

Although many Chinese companies are much smaller than the traditional multinational Olympic sponsors, like Volkswagen, Adidas and Coca-Cola, this year's Games offers them hope of exporting more.

Another Olympic sponsor, Guangzhou Dayang Motorcycle Co. Ltd, put the event's logo on a billboard. A manager of the company said more orders came in from Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia, so he believed that using the logo was a profitable decision.

Those without an official sponsorship deal have also found ways to link their products to the upcoming event.

TV giant Changhong Group put up a huge billboard with images of China's national table tennis team, the most popular sport team in the country. Changhong began to sponsor the team last March.

A digital product manufacturer, Beijing Huaqi Information Digital Technology Co., Ltd., is promoting a designated product of the Olympic museum, a digital pen that "reads" books aloud.

"We've got chance to show our products to Juan Antonio Samaranch, the Honorary President for Life of the International Olympic Committee," said Li Shenghua, the company's overseas department chief, saying that they would not miss any chance to connect their products with the Olympics.

Olympic sponsors are divided into two categories. Top multinationals and giant Chinese companies are called "Worldwide Olympic Partners" and "Beijing 2008 Partners." Another 41 companies, most of which are Chinese domestic companies, won the sponsorship and sole supplier title for the Beijing Olympics.

"Everyone knows that the Beijing Olympics will be a superb opportunity for foreign businessmen to enter the Chinese market. But Chinese companies have also found it a good chance to embrace the global market," said Zhang Yansheng, director of the International Economic Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission.

"Aokang already has steady overseas clients. We just want a larger market share" from being an Olympic supplier," Lu said.


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