Companies fight to hitch their brands to space sector China's second manned spacecraft may have returned to Earth, but a marketing battle surrounding the mission is just taking off across the country. The fiercest competition so far has been between companies vying to be main sponsors of the Chinese aerospace engineering sector, a title awarded to one business in each industry by the China Space Foundation. The foundation awarded varying degrees of sponsorship rights to 13 businesses before Shenzhou VI was launched last week, up from the five companies in 2003 when Shenzhou V blasted off. Eight of the companies signed up as 'co-operative partners', offering either essential company products or cash for the programme, while the other five gained the right to be named as 'sponsors' or 'concessionary enterprises'. The companies made the most of their space programme investment - which is believed to be a combined 30 million yuan - by promoting their association with it in nationwide advertising and promotional activities. Guangdong air conditioner and refrigerator manufacturer Kelon used the opportunity to mount an 'extensive marketing offensive' to help it rehabilitate its reputation after the arrest of former company president Gu Chujun last month over a corruption scandal. Kelon bought chunks of advertising time on China Central Television (CCTV) and Phoenix TV to promote its wares as 'designated products for China aerospace engineering'. In addition to the sponsorship rights, the cost of buying air time on CCTV during the mission was also substantial. State media reported that a five-second slot was available for 1.46 million yuan, 15 seconds for 2.66 million yuan and 30 seconds for 5.32 million yuan. Kelon vice-president Shi Yongchang praised the Shen-zhou VI launch as a 'God-given opportunity' for the enterprise to recover. Guangdong Great Impression Group, a company best known for its tea products, also signed up to be a Shenzhou VI sponsor. Company chairman Zheng Dingping said the organisation planned to make the most of the opportunity to expand its market share. 'Co-operative partner' Mengniu paid 10 million yuan to get sponsorship rights for the Shen-zhou V mission, but the milk giant had to raise its offer this time around to fend off interest from other dairy companies. An AC Nielsen survey said the company led the nation's milk producers in sales in the seven months from October 2003, when it began promoting its products as 'the designated milk for Chinese astronauts'. Keen competition was also evident between the two insurance behemoths China Life and China Pacific to offer insurance services for the two astronauts.