Lenovo Sees Olympics as U.S. Springboard

NEW YORK Lenovo, China’s largest computer maker, hopes an ad campaign that begins next month during NBC’s broadcast of the Beijing Olympic Games helps raise the brand’s profile among U.S. consumers.

Set to break during the opening ceremonies on Aug. 8, commercials created by WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather highlight various features of Lenovo products and stress the company’s role in the event with the line “Lenovo PCs power the Olympic Games.”

Glen Gilbert, vp, brand management and marketing communications at Lenovo in Morrisville, N.C., said the company — with about 600 technicians and 30,000 pieces of equipment on the ground in Beijing — has a legitimate Olympics story to share, though the event won’t be the focal point of all its advertising. “Levono is involved in making this run 24 hours a day,” he said. “So we can genuinely say we are empowering the Olympics, allowing the Olympics to happen.”

Director of marketing communications David Rabin added: “This is really the uber case study. If we can power the Olympic games, imagine what we can do for you.”

The Olympics push comes as the Chinese brand makes a major foray into the U.S. PC market following Lenovo’s 2005 purchase of IBM’s personal computing division. In January, the company branded its consumer and business offerings — including ThinkPad and IdeaPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktop units — with the line “Ideas.”

The upcoming ads, part of the larger “Ideas” branding effort that began earlier this year, will humorously highlight the technology in consumer products such as the IdeaPad. For example, a commercial that has been running on broadcasts of the Olympic Team Trials shows a castaway return home. His wife and dog don’t recognize him until he uses face-recognition technology to log on to his laptop computer. One of the spots breaking next month will focus on the laptop’s spill-resistant keyboard, while another will emphasize a “one-button recovery” feature.

Rabin noted that the company has built its marketing program “around unique features that can only be found on Lenovo PCs. It’s a three-year-old company that has heritage that goes [back] well before that. Both the previous Lenovo company, as well as IBM PC division, were really based on innovation, on coming up with new technologies that benefit the user of the machine. So our spots will clearly relay that message to the end user.”

Lenovo will also have a large presence on NBC.com, sponsoring coverage such as the “Performance of the Day” with pre-roll footage and a sponsored RSS feed for video content.

“[The Olympics are] a very large stage for us since we are admittedly not yet a household name in this country,” said Gilbert. “While we are the largest computer brand in China, this will be very important to getting our awareness levels up to what we need and expect in order to support some very ambitious growth objectives.”

According to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, Lenovo spent $7 million in measured media from January to April of 2008.