Two years ahead of the Beijing 2008 Olympics, more than two thirds (68 percent) of Chinese say they would be significantly more interested in brands that sponsor the world’s biggest sporting event. That’s nearly four times more interest in Olympic sponsors than U.S. consumers (17 percent) and five times more than European consumers (11 percent), according to SportZ, a new study commissioned by WPP Group and conducted by Millward Brown.

Virtually all of Chinese respondents (94 percent)  believe that the Olympics unites the whole nation and the number saying that the Olympics are growing more popular has increased to 84 percent from 30 percent.

According to Peter Walshe, global director at Millward Brown and lead researcher of the SportZ study: “This dramatic shift in awareness means that China is doing an incredible job educating the public about the Olympics. It also means that Chinese consumers don’t take Olympics sponsors for granted.”

Other findings:
• Badminton, table tennis and swimming are the favorite sports in China, thanks to strong equity among males and females. This is different from other countries where major sports are driven by men.
• Basketball is the game most watched on TV by males, with 71 percent of the 16-24 year olds interested in basketball
• Formula 1 motor racing is the most exciting sport among both male and female respondents.
• Men’s golf is perceived as too boring and costing too much to follow.