Lenovo will hand Olympic torch to Acer after Beijing

Acer will take over from Lenovo as the Olympic Games computing sponsor from 2009.

Acer will take over from Lenovo as a sponsor of the Olympic Games after 2008, a move that could help to elevate Acer's profile as a worldwide PC brand.

Acer's sponsorship deal covers the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and will help Acer promote its brands in North America, where it recently acquired Gateway, and in Europe, where it has an option to buy Packard Bell.

Acer will contribute cash, computer equipment and support staff to help stage the games, the International Olympic Committee said this week.

Other worldwide Olympic sponsors include IT services company Atos Origin, Coca-Cola, GE, McDonalds, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung and Visa. Most of those have contracts through 2012, but Panasonic and Samsung are signed up through 2016, and Coca-Cola through 2020.

Lenovo's Olympic sponsorship will end with the Beijing games in 2008, for which it won a competition to design the Olympic torch that will feature in the opening ceremony. It also sponsored the Torino 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Italy.

The company credits its Olympic sponsorship for helping it build a global brand following its acquisition of IBM's laptop and desktop PC business in 2005.

As Acer prepares to take over the role of Olympic sponsor from Lenovo, it is also about to overtake it in the contest for market share. Acer, of Taiwan, and Lenovo, of China, are almost neck and neck in the race for third place in the PC market, behind Hewlett-Packard and Dell.

In the third quarter, Lenovo captured 8.1 percent of the market, with 5.5 million PCs shipped, just ahead of Acer with 7.9 percent and 5.4 million PCs, according to market researcher iSuppli.

That's likely to change in the fourth quarter, though, as Acer will be able to add Gateway's market share, following the completion of its acquisition in October.

The Gateway deal also allowed Acer to snatch an option to buy European PC manufacturer Packard Bell from under Lenovo's nose. Lenovo had announced in August that it was in negotiations to buy Packard Bell.

The Olympics will not be Acer's first encounter with sports sponsorship: after deals with Ferrari and Honda, it began sponsoring the Ferrari Formula 1 motor racing team in 2003. As part of that deal, it has produced special-edition notebooks, PDAs and LCD monitors bearing the Ferrari brand.

In January, Lenovo too entered the world of Formula 1 sponsorship in a deal with the Williams team. So far this year, Ferrari is leading the Formula 1 championship; Williams is in fourth place.

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