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Unlocking advertising, activation and sponsorship in an emerging market: The case of Beijing Olympics

Sten Söderman (Stockholm Business School, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden)
Harald Dolles (Faculty of Business Administration and Social Sciences, Molde University College, Molde, Norway AND School of Business,Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden)

Sport, Business and Management

ISSN: 2042-678X

Article publication date: 9 November 2015



The purpose of this paper is to describe and explain the advertising behavior seen as an activation strategy performed by Olympic sponsors in an emerging market context. It provides insights into the strategic goals related to sponsorship.


The longitudinal approach taken opens the possibility to explore the dynamics of the strategies of Chinese as well as foreign firms in China. Theories on how sponsorship works cannot assist in explaining outcomes of sponsor-linked marketing, and since the actors involved rarely divulge their genuine intentions or their reciprocal contractual arrangements with the sponsored property, a new methodology has to be developed. A means-objective framework of sponsoring consists of six factors, which were applied to analyze 739 advertisements, articles and press releases collected from Chinese newspapers and Chinese official web pages covering a period of eight years (2001-2008) prior to the Olympic Games in Beijing. Based on a qualitative content analysis and nine means-objectives combinations in sponsorship patterns the authors discovered four dominant advertising strategies.


Lead-time is a key concept when analyzing sponsor advertising strategies. The authors conclude from the longitudinal data that the time gap between signing the contract and the dates of the event influences the strategy of the sponsoring corporations. The authors also observe that the advertising content changes over time and the sponsors craft different “advertising strategies” in different periods. Within this context the authors categorized two different advertising strategies. The sponsors are assumed to conduct a “Short Advertising Strategy” different from the “Long Advertising Strategy.” Both are examples of activation strategies.


Advertising strategies and activation seems to be dependent on the lead-time to the Olympic Games and the level of internationalization of the sponsoring firm.



Söderman, S. and Dolles, H. (2015), "Unlocking advertising, activation and sponsorship in an emerging market: The case of Beijing Olympics", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 5 No. 5, pp. 472-492.



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