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Lenovo Counts on Olympics for Growth
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Lenovo Group, China's only worldwide Olympic partner, is expecting a windfall from its 2008 Beijing Olympics marketing campaigns, the company said on Friday.

"In 2007 and 2008 all of our marketing campaigns will be focused on the Olympic Games," said Chen Shaopeng, Lenovo's senior vice-president and president of China operations.

Lenovo signed a deal with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2004 to join the sponsorship program, becoming the first Chinese company in the high-profile club.

Lenovo's brand awareness has since received a boost after a series of Olympics-related marketing blitzes, including a campaign at the 2006 Turin Olympics, Chen said.

Lenovo's share in China's PC market rose to 36.7 percent in December 2006, compared with 32.7 percent late 2004.

"Excluding the boost from Lenovo's acquisition of IBM's PC-making business, I believe the Olympic marketing has played a vital role" in the company's growth, Chen said.

Lenovo's US$1.25-million acquisition of IBM's PC unit in 2005 helped boost Lenovo's international profile, but the firm is still struggling with poor brand awareness in overseas markets.

In the third quarter of last year, Taiwan's Acer Computers surpassed Lenovo as the world's third-largest computer maker in terms of global sales, according to a report by Gartner, a US research firm. Acer generates about 50 percent of its total sales in the US, and 20 in Europe.

Lenovo is hoping the Olympics campaign will move the company closer to rivals Hewlett-Packard and Dell.

Meanwhile, Chen also announced Friday that Lenovo would contribute 15,000 computing devices including desktops, laptops, computer servers, and display monitors to 2008 Games, almost twice what the company sent to Turin.

It will also establish the Games' first ever computer maintenance centers to fix computer problems on Lenovo and competing computers at Olympic venues.

Lenovo designed the Beijing Olympic torch, unveiled Thursday night. The firm has also become the first Olympic torch relay partner from China.

Lenovo vice-president Li Lan said the company plans to sign a number of Olympic champions in countries and regions along the torch relay route.

During last year's World Cup of soccer, Lenovo signed Brazilian star Ronaldinho as an image ambassador. The company is also the "Official PC Partner" of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Recent reports say Lenovo plans to sign Liu Xiang, China's 110m hurdles world record holder and Olympics champion, but Chen would not confirm the rumours.

(China Daily April 28, 2007)

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