Profiling the Games' major backers. This week: Lenovo Group Four years into its role as the first mainland company to become a worldwide Olympic sponsor, computer maker Lenovo Group is running a gruelling global marketing marathon unprecedented for a Chinese firm. As well as commitments to the Games in Beijing, the world's fourth-largest personal-computer supplier is involved this year in the Formula One car-racing circuit with the AT&T Williams team, and the North American National Basketball Association (NBA). 'These make up the largest marketing campaign in the company's history,' said Alice Li Lan, Lenovo's vice-president of Olympic marketing and head of brand communications on the mainland. She said the total cost may be triple the company's typical annual budget for marketing. Lenovo, which acquired IBM's personal computer business in 2005, has made the largest computer hardware commitment for any Olympic Games. This computing infrastructure consists of about 20,000 desktop and laptop computers, servers, monitors and other peripheral equipment. Technical support for that infrastructure includes more than 500 Lenovo technicians and engineers, who will work at Olympic venues during the 17-day event. Lenovo was also a major partner - with Coca-Cola and Samsung Electronics - for the Olympic Torch Relay in 21 countries across five continents. The mainland technology giant designed a torch fashioned from aluminium-magnesium alloy and inspired by the shape of a traditional Chinese scroll. Given Lenovo's F1 and NBA commitments, concerns have been raised about whether the aggressive brand-marketing campaign is placing financial pressure on the company as it takes on one of the world's biggest sporting events. Analysts at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in January described what Lenovo faced as 'uncharted waters'. But Lenovo's senior vice-president Chen Shaopeng, who is also president of the Hong Kong-listed firm's Greater China operations, said everything was under control at the computer giant. 'Even without the Olympics, we will fork out about 2 per cent of annual income every year for branding and promotion to push sales,' said Mr Chen. Lenovo's annual marketing expense for the fiscal year to March 2009 is projected to increase by US$50 million due to the company's international consumer market expansion with its new Idea-brand computers and various activities connected with the Beijing Games, according to a Bear Stearns Asia research note. 'Our marketing strategy covers all 165 markets where we do business,' said Mr Chen. 'In sports marketing, the popularity of certain types of sports is different in all countries. That is why we need to complement our work on the Olympics with other marketing. In Europe, for instance, F1 may have a more positive impact.' Last December, Lenovo announced that its Olympics sponsorship would end four months after the closing ceremonies of the Beijing Games. 'As Lenovo grows, the company's marketing strategy is evolving to pinpoint opportunities that serve strategic needs in targeted geographies,' the company said. Lenovo's role in the Beijing Olympics is more than a marketing platform to raise the company's profile worldwide. It is a source of national pride. 'The Olympics is big in China,' said Ms Li. 'For Lenovo, this is our first experience [with a major global sports-based marketing programme] and it's all extra work. But everyone involved is very excited to be a part of this.'