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10 Reasons Lenovo's Olympic Marketing Program Won Gold

This week we put the finishing touches on what has probably been the best campaign I have led since I started my career working in marketing agencies ten years ago – the Lenovo Voices Of the Olympic Games project. When you work in an agency, you tend to learn a lot about many different businesses and industries. You work with many clients and are usually juggling multiple campaigns concurrently. After doing it for a while, you start to spot the hallmarks of a great campaign and marketing effort. Particularly when it comes to social media campaigns, the successes stand out, and the failures are usually for the same reasons.

This campaign was a runaway success for several reasons. Though the numbers are still coming in, the short story is that we recruiting 100 bloggers from 25 countries and 27 sports. They created more than 1500 blog posts, generated over 8000 comments over the course of a single month and were mentioned on hundreds of blogs and social media sites. The social media impressions alone are estimated at over 10 million and we drove more than 1.6 million unique visitors to the site over the course of the Games. In every case, these metrics went far beyond the KPIs we had set for ourselves at the beginning of the campaign. There are, of course, many more results – however that is as much as I can share in a blog post.

Looking back on the Lenovo project, I believe the reason for the campaign success was due to how our collective team was able to focus on ten key factors and get them all to work together. These ten are not unique to our campaign, but are my initial thoughts on perhaps what the ten key ingredients for any successful marketing effort should be. If you can come up with good answers for all ten, you’re probably going to end up successful. So before I share the ten with you, watch this recap video of our project to get a sense of what we did. Then check out the ten lessons below:

  1. Strategy – Often coming up with a brilliant tactical idea that an entire team loves seems enough to make a program successful. It isn’t. In this case, Lenovo’s overall sponsorship promise for the Olympics was "powering the world’s biggest idea." The strategy was essentially to bring the games to life through technology. Similarly, the strategy for our program was to extend this and bring the athletes experiences to life for Olympic fans around the world. Simple and powerful.
  2. Concept – To accomplish this strategy, we had a great creative concept … bring 100 Olympic athletes together, give them machines and support them with Lenovo technology to tell their stories. Again, it’s a powerful idea, creative, unique and not done on this scale by any other sponsor. Also, it’s not a program you could sell to Coke, or Kodak or any other Olympic sponsor and have it work equally well – it is unique for Lenovo.
  3. Collaboration – In getting our team to work together, we had the challenge of having core team members based in Raleigh, DC, and Buenos Aires with extended team members in another 12 countries around the world. Clearly having a good system of collaboration would be huge. Through the project, our team used Basecamp to set up a hub for collaboration, Twitter for direct messages to instantly communicate, and the old reliable methods of weekly calls and consistent emails. It all worked to keep everyone connected no matter where in the world team members were.
  4. Approval – With strong senior level client support comes one big benefit – you don’t need to wait for 12 layers of management to approve every step. The benefits of this were evident throughout our project as we were able to meet development timeframes, get feedback on time and in a single round rather than 8 conflicting rounds, and changes were made fast. The team operated quickly because there was a flat structure of approvals at Lenovo, and the legal team was present and involved, but did not see their mission in life to be the idea squashers (as is the case at many other companies, unfortunately).
  5. Budget – Though a hugely ambitious project, our team worked with Lenovo to make sure that we budgeted the program correctly – a big early decision that allowed us to do many things right throughout. Though I can’t reveal what the campaign budget was (obviously), it was just enough for us to do all the project elements we wanted to, and not have to stop answering client calls the day the project ended. As a result, we are indeed still talking to one another and were able to move our relationship to the next phase without burning any bridges.
  6. Since this is turning out to be a really long post, if you need a break, click here to check out my photo collection of more than 800 images from the Olympics – or just see my favourites in this gallery.

  7. Passion – I am a big Olympic fan, having been to three of the last four Summer Games. As a result, I was super excited about this project – but more than that I am actually a big Lenovo fan too. There is really no way to say this without it coming off as being biased since they are a client, but I have personally purchased three ThinkPads over the years with my own money for personal use before I even started working with Lenovo. I simply think they make the best laptop computers and so I also had a personal passion for the product. Added to that, my colleague Kaitlyn as well as our main client David are all as big Olympic nuts as I am … which meant we were all having the time of our lives on the project and are now struggling with our post-Olympic blues together. Maybe we’ll open a support group for each other.
  8. Execution – A great idea only gets you so far, and then it is all about the execution. From the aggregation page that we worked with Lenovo to put together to the recruiting of 100 engaging real athletes, the execution of the program lived up to the vision. We created the content we wanted to, got the program buzz we aimed for, and delivered on all the KPIs we had set for the program (see below for a snapshot of our results).
  9. Relevance – Sometimes even the best planning and execution can fall on deaf ears because you need to pass a barrier where people will actually care about what you are doing. Even if everything else is perfect, this is where marketers often fall down. For this program, we had our relevance factor built in. During the three weeks of our program in August of 2008, just about everybody in the world cared about the Olympics. It is the world’s largest stage and we were not just talking about how Lenovo put 30,000 pieces of equipment into all the Olympic venues. Our program was more relevant to everyday consumers. We all watch the Olympics for the athletes, not the business stories. The Voices campaign worked because it was all about the athletes.
  10. Coordination – As you might expect, Lenovo’s Global sponsorship of the Olympics was a huge undertaking and our project was just one element of the greater mix. Big Ogilvy (as we in the 360 DI team at Ogilvy PR like to call our peers at O&M) was managing much of the media planning and advertising. Ketchum was doing traditional PR and we were responsible for the social media. Bringing all these groups together required coordination both before
    the Games and during. We had several meetings with everyone and managed to have what I thought was quite a successful collaboration amongst all the agencies. Our focus was on getting things done for the client, and we thankfully didn’t have that one toxic person on any team who poisons the relationship for every other group (if you have ever been in that situation, you know what I’m talking about).
  11. Integration – The final element that made our program work was just how integrated all the pieces ended up. Our site worked with the existing iGoogle portal the Lenovo team had already set up. There was an integrated Facebook community, mobile phone application, and interactive ad buy. Search marketing drove people to the site, and we had the site available as the homepage for all Lenovo machines that were supplied in the iLounges set up at the Games for more than 10,000 media and 20,000 athletes.

UPDATE: Here are a few other posts about our campaign worth reading:

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Rohit is the author of 9 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.


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