As we expect to embrace the Chinese New Year festivities and the 2022 Winter Olympic sportiveness in a week, we spoke to sports and comms professionals Cameron Wilson
and Mark Dreyer
for their insight and expectations on how brands can leverage the Games this year to appeal to Mainland Chinese audiences, while Agency Founder Rebekah Wilens
shared her observation around the elements brands can focus on for their comms strategy and campaigns within this period.
Cameron Wilson, Founding Editor, Wild East Football
For foreign brands, unlike the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008, the Winter Olympics is a massive banana skin this time around. We live in an age where anyone with Google Translate can check what foreign brands are saying to their Mainland Chinese audience and often it’s very different, and sometimes contradictory, from what the same brand is saying in other markets. So when crafting any message tailored for Mainland Chinese audiences, it’s prudent to at least think about how it might be perceived elsewhere.
This is very unfortunate for all concerned as the Olympics should be a much-needed exercise in bridge building, but the reality is that the event will focus international media attention on contentious issues in Mainland China. So if I was a brand director, I’d just sit this one out and use the energy gained from no lost sleep during the Olympics to focus on the Mainland Chinese market messaging when there is less international attention being paid.
Mark Dreyer, Author of “Sporting Superpower: An Insider’s View on China’s Quest to Be the Best”
The build-up to these Olympics has been more fraught than any I can remember, given both the pandemic situation and the geopolitical conversation around boycotts and more. As a result, the main corporate sponsors have been particularly quiet on the marketing front - even in domestic media - for fear of further blowback globally.
That said, once the Games themselves start, I expect to see a change in tone as the positive sports stories start to dominate the news cycle. While the official sponsors may still be wary of putting themselves out there too much, I think there’s a great opportunity for related brands - particularly in sports and consumer-facing industries - to leverage some athletes or Team China's sporting successes and themes in order to attract the right sort of attention. Quick reactions from brands on social media to Team China's medals, or light-hearted and heart-warming Olympic moments, can quickly go viral and align a brand with that positive momentum - regardless of whether they are an actual Olympic sponsor or not.
Rebekah Wilens, Founder, Perfect Resonance PR
It is critical that foreign brands in Mainland China align their social cadence with the Mainland Chinese consumers' calendar to demonstrate appreciation and understanding of local traditions. By aligning messaging around holidays, brands tap into the emotional resonance of each cultural pillar. For global events hosted in Mainland China, brands can signal their cultural unity and echo national pride, while also mirroring government support of key international events.
The simultaneous impact of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Chinese New Year is a valuable opportunity to curry favour with the Mainland Chinese public and enhance a brand’s relevance to the social topics they care most about.