The Coca-Cola Company

Cashing in on Games links

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 March, 2008, 12:00am

Food and beverage sponsors embrace Olympic affiliations

The Olympic spirit is being served with burgers and soft drinks across the nation as the task of spreading the Games' goodwill message outside the capital is adopted by the major food and beverage sponsors.

Giving the general public access to the Olympics is the premise of the Coca-Cola and McDonald's marketing campaigns. Both are using their affiliations to strengthen internal branding, retain their best staff and boost recruitment.

With sports stars Yao Ming and Liu Xiang as ambassadors, the Coca-Cola campaign is reaching out with nationwide marketing including souvenir trading centres, online design competitions, extensive outdoor signage, fresh product packaging and its high-profile support of the Olympic torch relay.

Phyllis Cheung, chief marketing officer for McDonald's China, said the fast food chain's restaurant outlets would be a focus for Olympic activities. 'We want to make the Olympics relevant locally and will host co-ordinated special events to make it happen. The vision is that McDonald's outlets will be venues for mass participation.'

The McDonald's campaign includes a programme for children, encouraging expression of artistic talent in restaurants, brand connection with adults through an online cheering competition and spreading a message about food hygiene. More than 80,000 people have uploaded cheering routines online and five lucky winners will perform on a national tour and attend the Games in Beijing.

The fast food chain will have a 1,200-strong Olympic 'crew' working at its Beijing outlets, including four Olympic venues during July and August. The specially selected staff include 740 from the capital, 300 Beijing university students and 150 managers from across the nation. Two hundred selected overseas staff from 31 countries will join the team.

Affiliation with the Olympics is a powerful tool for retaining the best staff and attracting new people said Susanna Li, a vice-president who oversees McDonald's China human resources.

'Our staff treasure the opportunity to work at the Games and it will be an exciting and rewarding experience, putting all of our skills and expertise in service, operations and management to the ultimate test,' Ms Cheung said.

'This is the largest Olympic crew McDonald's has brought together for an Olympics. It is also a major opportunity for positive growth and finding new talent. We are recruiting aggressively and are always looking for people with a passion for the food industry. We are bringing through 1,000 new managers every year through our graduate training programme for which we have had thousands of applications.

'We run a lot of community recruitment activities, and especially target students. Of course we also recruit from within, so there is a lot of opportunity for promotion. Restaurant crew are all local Chinese, but we would be willing to hire from Hong Kong for office positions.'

McDonald's hires 8,000 new staff every year, and will have opened 125 new restaurants in Beijing by the end of this year, a record growth since the first eatery opened in Shenzhen in 1990. There are nearly 900 McDonald's restaurants across China, and more than 60,000 staff.

The Coca-Cola campaign is based on building the spirit of shuang - a Chinese word that means physical, emotional and spiritual refreshment. An extravagant Lunar New Year's eve show at a shopping plaza in Beijing saw a giant 20-tonne coke bottle covered in LED screens unveiled.

The company employs 500 office staff on the mainland and a further 25,000 through affiliated bottlers and franchisers. It established a core Olympic crew of 100 senior professionals 18 months ago and at Games time will create venue dream teams, calling on its wider pool of staff and volunteer university students to assist with public relations, operations and hospitality work at six Olympic venues.

Jonathan Taylor, vice-president of human resources for Coca-Cola China, said the opportunity to work at the Games will be a reward to 850 staff from across the country.

'The Olympics are a huge driver for the engagement and retention of staff,' said Mr Taylor.

'There is immense pride to be involved [in the Games]. Working at the venues and on the campaign is a great opportunity for our people to develop skills and awareness of how to grow the brand. Some of our staff have been selected to run with the Olympic torch, local heroes who have contributed to their community. It has generated a lot of excitement.'

Since 1979, Coca-Cola says it has invested more than US$1.3 billion in China. Mr Taylor said that with its nationwide network of bottlers and franchisers, the company offers excellent prospects for career development.

'We are always looking for talented people and we would hire from Hong Kong and overseas, although 95 per cent of our staff are mainland Chinese. Our focus is on marketing and brand development, but there are opportunities in all fields. There are global opportunities and we often export Chinese talent to North America.'

This is the second in a five-part series on the Beijing 2008 and hiring trends. It is published once a month.