In 1984, the Chinese Women’s Volleyball Team (CWVT) was the toast of the nation following its triumph at the Olympics. But in the following 20+ years, the team’s image had suffered from a series of lackluster performances. And volleyball itself, once enormously popular among Chinese youth, was now seen by as a game primarily for “older people.” Because our client, adidas is both a CWVT sponsor and a partner with the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the goal for Ogilvy PR was to make Chinese ages 14 through 24 once again see women’s volleyball as an entertaining and exciting game.
We began by reviewing the qualitative findings of All China Strategic Research, which revealed three key points. We needed to create star power for the team, because China’s youth culture is heavily influenced by star players and sports icons. We needed to showcase the power of the game—its speed and ferocity—to boost its coolness factor. And because our youth target audience is driven by a desire for ownership and participation, we needed to drive youth involvement.
With 18 million Chinese high school students using the Internet—and with the overall rate of Internet use among Chinese young people growing daily—digital media were seen as key to boosting the profile of the CWVT.
- Blogging plus makeovers equaled a major media play. There was little general knowledge of individual team members, so we sought to open a dialogue and bring fans closer to the players by creating the first-ever Chinese Olympic team blog. Each player was also given a professional makeover, captured in glamour shots. We debuted their photos on the blog, which not only drove traffic, but also resulted in instant pick up by major print media.
- Viral films showed the power of the game. We wanted to make volleyball edgy, dangerous and exciting to a young audience increasingly in love with basketball. So we promoted six viral films that used creative stunts to show the games’ speed and power. For example, a volleyball spike reaching a speed of 92 kilometers per hour was shown alongside water gushing from a fire hydrant at the same speed and hitting a passerby.
- The volleyball chant competition spiked youthful involvement. adidas became the sponsor of China’s first chant competition, which invited the public to create a national chant, cheer, or jingle that volleyball can own. The forms a “cheer” could take were very wide ranging—including hand motions and dance moves related to volleyball moves. Participants uploaded their chants to the CWVT minisite and could vote on the entries of others.
- Postlaunch research showed that the target audience who defined CWVT as “cool” increased by as much as 16 percent within several months. The Shanghai Times noted that fans were impressed with the team’s “never-before-seen sexiness.” CWVT members were even featured in youth lifestyle magazines, such as Easy and Touch.
- The blog attracted nearly 161,000 unique visits in the first three months, while the chant competition site logged nearly 400,000 unique visits in the same time period.
More than 5.5 million visitors clicked through and viewed the viral films within the first three months of release.
- 73 percent of viewers said the films were “innovative” and stimulating, while 78 percent of viewers forwarded them to friends.
The impact of the campaign on the team itself was summed up by Chief Coach Chen Zhonghe, who said, “adidas brought the girls closer to their fans, which is helping to boost the team’s morale and their performance …”