(Beijing – July 31st, 2008) With nine days to go before the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, a just-released online survey found excitement among local Chinese has grown throughout the country. The new wave of enthusiasm is driven by national pride and patriotism for China serving as host of the Olympic Games. The impact of policies recently introduced by Beijing – flexible work hours, traffic management and security efforts, to name a few – are also reflected in consumers' perceptions of the imminent Games.
In Phase II of The Project 2008 Poll, a joint initiative of the Ogilvy Group in China and Millward Brown ACSR, Chinese residents were surveyed in locations throughout China for their attitudes and opinions regarding the upcoming Olympic Games. Phase II was launched on June 28th and completed on July 8th using Millward Brown ACSR's propriety Lightspeed Research, an online China panel that collected 3,000 responses from citizens aged 12-54 across 20 provinces as well as four major Chinese cities. The first phase was conducted from January 5th through January 15th in the same locations and received 2,687 responses.
Excitement Levels Buoyed By Patriotism and The Torch Relay
The study found excitement levels have grown from 74% to 77% throughout the country between January and early July, with excitement in Guangzhou increasing significantly, in Beijing decreasing, and in Shanghai remaining even. Increases in excitement, however, are coming largely from 2nd and 3rd tier cities throughout the country as the Olympic Torch Relay makes its way around China. Specifically, Anhui, Jiangsu, Henan, Shanxi, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hunan, and Chongqing are among the locations where we have seen significant increases in excitement levels.
Commented Miles Young, the Chairman of the Ogilvy Group in A/P: "The Chinese, particularly in the provinces, have a very strong sense of national pride – something which we see everyday in our work. The Torch Relay in particular has been dramatically successful in capturing their imagination and raising the engagement level; but the slogan for the Games itself which positions them as "global" also resonates. In affect it positions all of China as a significant center in the World once more and, unusually for such lines in the West, it generates real and sincere pride."
When asked about the most memorable moments of the preparations for the Beijing Games, 70% of residents nationwide said the Olympic Torch Relay was the "One World One Dream" (68%), and the completion of the Olympic venues (34%).
With the completion of all of the venues and the renovation of a number of medical, security and traffic command facilities, hotels, news centers and large-scale cultural buildings such as the Capital Museum and the National Center for the Performing Arts, Beijing's preparedness is significantly different than that of the 2004 Athens Games when venue construction was finalized only days before the Games.
Interest Levels, Seriousness of the Games Remain High
Phase II of the Project 2008 Poll again found residents planning to stay in Beijing for the Games, with 90% of local respondents in both Phase I and Phase II saying that they aren't going anywhere during August. Plans among Shanghai and Guangzhou residents to travel to Beijing dropped slightly between the two studies, although residents in both cities say they plan to watch the Games.
When compared to the NBA and the World Cup, the Olympics is considered a more "serious" sporting event by 32% of respondents in Phase II, up from the more than 26% of respondents who said so in Phase I. Both groups are much larger than the number of respondents who consider the NBA or the World Cup to be "serious" sporting events.
"Clearly there is a lot at stake for Chinese athletes in this Games and the nation as a whole. We're seeing that come through very strongly at a consumer level in China," commented Sacha Cody, Account Director of Millward Brown ACSR.
The gravity with which residents from all walks of life assign to this Games underscores the fact that the event has played a prominent role in shaping China over the last seven years. The Beijing 2008 Olympic Mascots, landmarks such as the Birds Nest, Water Cube and Grand National Theater, all demonstrate elements of "soft power" China has embraced in the lead up to the Games.
Impact of Beijing Policies
Phase II of the Project 2008 Poll also reflected public responses to a number of policies introduced by the government in preparation for the Games.
When respondents were asked about their concerns, traffic worries dropped from being cited by 56% of respondents in Phase I to 51% of respondents in Phase II. Similarly, pollution concerns dropped from 40% to 33% between Phase I and Phase II. Also reflected in the survey was the perceived threat of terrorism, which grew from 20% to 37%.
"The drops in traffic management and air pollution concerns seem to be a result of the ongoing campaign to restrict traffic flows into the city," commented Scott Kronick, President of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide in China. "And, as seen in responses citing terrorism concerns, residents are reacting to broad security measures and the government's efforts to ensure a safe and secure Games."
Television/Online Drive Media Preferences
Perhaps the most significant results of the policies are seen in the way consumers responded to the question: "Which method will you use most often to watch the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games?" The number of respondents citing online media grew from 59% to 64%.
"These are the so-called 'multi-media Games', and as a result we can expect to see a deeper level of interaction and engagement from the audience than has ever been observed before," commented Chris Reitermann, President of OgilvyOne in China. "Groundbreaking new forms of media that were only beginning to emerge during the last Olympics – such as video sharing and social media sites - will play an extremely important role during the Beijing Games and will allow consumers to experience the Olympics in revolutionary new ways."
In addition to consumers tuning in online, live television coverage remains the top choice for watching the Games, with 86% saying so in both Phase I and Phase II studies. Consumers also expressed interest in following the Games via SMS and mobile updates, 23% in Phase II compared to 17% in Phase I.
Some of these priorities were confirmed by GroupM, WPP's media investment agency in China, which forecasts that television viewership will reach 90% of the country at any given time during the Olympics, with the Opening and Closing Ceremonies expected to be blockbuster performances. Overall, the Olympics are expected to accelerate media investment in China by 22% in 2008. Olympic viewership is expected to be higher in China compared to what was experienced in Greece, with 80% tuning in for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and consistent with Sydney, where 90% of the country watched the Ceremonies on television.
In terms of digital media, the Beijing 2008 Games is expected to see record growth, especially as Internet penetration has surpassed 250 million residents in China based on research from the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). Reflecting that growth, spending on online media is expected to jump 62% from 2007 to 2008 and reach RMB17.2 billion, according to Neo@Ogilvy, the Ogilvy Group's digital marketing arm.
Patriotism Coming Through In Prospects For Local Brands
In Phase II of the Project 2008 Poll, consumers expressed their ambitions and views towards local sponsors involved in the Games. Specifically, the survey found 87% of consumers believe that hosting the Olympics is an opportunity for Chinese brands to become international, with 82% saying that Chinese brands will perform better inside of China as a result of the increased pride.
"We have seen the Olympics serve as a launching pad for local brands looking to go global," commented Young. "But, until now, we haven't seen such strong data related to patriotic sentiments for domestic brands marketing domestically."
While Lenovo, Sohu.com, China Mobile, Haier and Great Wall Wine are already among the leaders in their industries, the Olympics is expected to help these brands grow even stronger in the China market.
Table Tennis, Diving and Gymnastics Lead "Patriotic Sports" Categories
In Phase II of the survey, table tennis, diving and gymnastics continued to reign as the top three sports in which respondents would like to see China win gold medals. Since table tennis became an officially recognized Olympic sport, China has taken almost every gold medal in every event except the women's doubles and men's singles; fans are expecting Team China to continue their dominance, and come away with gold's across the board. Pressures for the Chinese diving team are equally intense as reported in the local media, as the Team China divers are determined to defend their reputation on their home-turf. By securing wins in these events, and by succeeding in other events not on China's traditional list of must-wins, China hopes to showcase their strengths and abilities on a world stage.
Looking Beyond The Olympics
Beyond just the Olympics sports competitions themselves looms the question of how the Games will impact Chinese society. "Instead of the Games being seen as the 'end' of years of buildup and anticipation, and the culmination of tremendous preparation on the part of the Chinese people, we must consider how the Olympics is the 'beginning' of a new era in China," commented Edward Bell, Regional Planning Director at Ogilvy & Mather China.
A new culture is emerging in China as a direct result of the significant investments in infrastructure, increased brand spending, the influence of foreign programming, an uplift in tourism, and the opportunity to play host to such a huge world event. In this post-Olympics China, not only will sports change, but the way society views itself in relation to the rest of the world will drastically change.
"For brands, this new China presents opportunities and challenges. Most of all, this will signal a new kind of relationship between China and the West," added Bell.
About The Ogilvy Group in China
Ogilvy China (www.ogilvy.com.cn) is the largest marketing communications network in China. It offers the full range of marketing communication disciplines including advertising, direct marketing, interactive media, database management, public relations, graphic design, and related marketing disciplines. As Brand Stewards, the agency works to leverage the brands of its clients by combining local know-how with a worldwide network, creating powerful campaigns that address local market needs while still reinforcing the same universal brand identity.
Ogilvy & Mather integrates these communications disciplines using its proprietary 360 Degree Brand Stewardship process, which holds that every point of contact builds the brand. Ogilvy Group Companies are working with 10 of the Olympic sponsors, partners and suppliers.
Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide (www.ogilvy.com) is one of the largest marketing communications network in the world, operating 497 offices in 125 countries. Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide is a member of WPP plc (NASDAQ: WPPGY), one of the world's leading advertising and communications services groups.
About Millward Brown ACSR
Millward Brown ACSR is the Chinese business of Millward Brown, one of the world's leading research agencies and is an expert in effective advertising, marketing communications, media and brand equity research. With a wide range of methodologies including CATI, CAPI and a dedicated consumer panel, Millward Brown ACSR is a full service marketing research organization that works with multinational and Chinese brands and services in China.
Millward Brown has more than 70 offices in 44 countries. Additional practices include Millward Brown's Global Media Practice (media effectiveness unit), Millward Brown Optimor (focused on helping clients maximize the returns on their brand and marketing investments), Millward Brown Precis (PR measurement practice), Dynamic Logic (the world leader in digital marketing effectiveness), and BMRB (public sector, media and market research).
About Lightspeed Research
Lightspeed Millward Brown ACSR is the China business of Lightspeed Research, a global interactive data solutions provider delivering market research results through global panels. Lightspeed Research's proprietary panels are recruited and maintained to ensure quality and representative sampling to support studies that range in scope and complexity across most industry sectors.
Lightspeed Research operates panels covering healthcare, financial services, automotive, B2B, telecommunications, family and more, and provides access to household members across 34 countries in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.
Both Millward Brown and Lightspeed Research are part of Kantar, WPP's insight, information, and consultancy group.
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