Party Foul

Companies thinking about hosting event in Beijing next summer…think again.

Recent reports in the Chinese press indicate that from April 30, 2008 – July 31, the Chinese government will “severely restrict” major promotional gatherings, and will ban the events outright from August 1 – September 23 . Though it remains to be seen how the policy will play out, the ramifications on the communications industry could be massive.

Many companies have been counting on hosting events during the Olympic season in order to capitalize on the unprecedented enthusiasm that the government has been drumming up for more than six years; event planning and public relations firms, which are primarily focused on event planning and management are now bracing for what could be a severe blow to their marketing business.

Though the Olympic committee has a legitimate right to protect against ambush marketing, and while it is recognized that the local government is preoccupied with keeping a handle on things during this sensitive time, this new policy unreasonably punishes many company’s who have unwittingly built their operations around the Olympic economy. One can only hope that, like many Chinese regulations, it goes unenforced.

For a full translation of the original article and the policy itself, see below:

 

Translation of: Public Relations “Checks out” of Beijing

Source: China Business

October 31, 2007

“From April 30 to July 31, all nationwide or international conferences and/or events will be strictly controlled” – this announcement has alarmed both in-house PR departments at major firms and PR agencies who had hoped to take advantage of the Olympic atmosphere in 2008.

Beijing has received an influx of foreigners in the lead up to the Opening Ceremony, and regulations such as this have become buried with all the excitement. On November 9, 2005 the Central Government issued regulations governing the management of all events in Beijing leading up to and during the period of the 29th Olympic and 13th Paralympic Games. From August 1 to September 23, no nationwide or international events unrelated to the Olympics will be allowed to go ahead in the city of Beijing.

What does this mean?

Hundreds of brand exhibitions cannot be held as planned, and some large-scale ground events will also have to be cancelled. To company communications departments and PR agencies, it is time for “crisis management” to determine what kind of methods will achieve the same communication results.

“Why not hold them outside Beijing?” suggests Assistant Professor Gao of Qinghua University’s Management Department. He remarks that the Olympic Games are not only for Beijing, but for all of China, and that much information released in Beijing during the Games may lose impact. “Use the Olympic concept, but stay away from Beijing – it will increase communication and generate a greater market effect,” added Professor Gao.

Some companies have already begun to analyze how to carry out Olympic marketing activities in “non-Olympic cities.” One Olympic mascot supplier in eastern China has already cancelled its booking for a hotel ballroom in Beijing. “It’s not easy to book a hotel ballroom. Although this is an Olympic-related forum, we have still decided to move to another city,” says a leading executive from the company.

Mr. Hou Jihai, director of marketing for Snow Beer, also believes it is not necessary to organize all marketing promotions in Beijing. Of course, he has his own reasons: “Snow Beer is a national brand, so the main purpose for us is to watch the Beijing Olympics, to get involved in the Beijing Olympics, but it does not mean that we need to gather in Beijing. We should pay more attention to the overall China market. The Olympics doesn’t only belong to Beijing, but to all of China.” As a Beijing Olympics supplier, Aokang’s brand manager says that Aokang’s “dream has come true.” Plans will definitely be carried out, but he will have to choose other city, if they cannot be executed in Beijing.

During client discussions, Mr. Xing Zhongjing from Pegasus has tried to determine to which city his clients should move to if their communications plans are unable to be executed in Beijing.

Which city could provide a suitable replacement?

It is important for PR managers to think about which cities could act as a suitable replacements for their events. Mr. Wang, a partner in a consulting firm, says, “some partner cities and other first-tier cities could be suitable.” According to Mr. Wang, Olympic partner cities come first in the search for replacement cities to hold large-scale corporate events because they have already garnered significant public attention through holding several Olympic occasions. Replacement cities also need the proper infrastructure to entertain guests in terms of hospitality and finally, they need to have experience holding other large events so that professionals and experts of prestige will be willing to attend.

Qingdao has successfully drawn public attention because the city has fused Olympic elements to all events that have taken place for years. For instance, in May, Qingdao had a China (Qingdao) Olympics and Tourism International Forum, and in July, the city held the fifth Olympic Cultural Festival. In terms of Olympic atmosphere, Qingdao is the best choice, as it is a city with an excellent capacity for hospitality and is not too far from Beijing. One survey has shown that some companies and enterprises have already chosen Qingdao as their preferred destination after Beijing.

Mr. Xing of Pegasus says, “Shanghai is another choice, and Chengdu as well because of their significant impact on the Chinese economy. Both serve as headquarters for international firms and are comparable to Beijing in terms of their economic environment and tourist scene. The only drawback could be that they have fewer experts or scholars than the capital. Aokang, a famous national shoe brand chose Shanghai as their first choice, mainly because the company’s headquarters are in nearby Wenzhou, which gives them an opportunity to promote themselves in a key market outside Beijing.

The reporter of the article has received information that the Shanghai International Conference Center has already received two reservations for its grand ballroom. Mr. Wang from the Center says, “One of the companies that contacted us said their event would probably not be allowed in Beijing, so they chose Shanghai as a backup.”

Translation of the Original Policy

(Sourced from http://news.chinaxinge.com/shownews.asp?id=19042 )

According to the Olympic Charter, any nationwide or international conferences or events set to take place in Beijing will be prohibited one week before and after the Games. The Central Government has issued this in order to enable the smooth running of the Games. The regulations are as follows:

1. From August 1 to September 23, no nationwide or international conferences or events unrelated to the Olympics will be allowed to take place in the city of Beijing.

2. From April 30 to July 31, all nationwide or international conferences or events will be strictly controlled:

i) Permission will only be given to conferences that have been held in Beijing at least twice before

ii) Permission will only be given to exhibitions that have been held in Beijing at least twice before

iii) Venues for exhibitions must be under 5,000 square meters

iv) Performances will be subject to strict scrutiny

v) Sports events/competitions unrelated to the Olympics must have been held at least twice before and must be in cooperation with the State Sports Bureau

vi) To protect Beijing Olympic sponsors, competitor events will be subject to strict scrutiny and must seek permission from BOCOG before going ahead

3. All events from April 30 to July 31 must submit a written application to BOCOG.

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