Olympics inspire ambush marketing success stories

Tue 31st of July 2012, filed under Copywriting

Ambush marketing at the Olympics

Companies can negotiate the strict Olympic brand guidelines to associate themselves with the Games, a leading sponsorship expert has told Reuters.

Ever since the UK government passed the 2006 London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act, there have been laws in place to protect official sponsors and discourage others from piggybacking on the success of the Games. Breaking the act can incur fines of up to £20,000.

Specsavers and Paddy Power

However, businesses are testing the boundaries with London 2012 ambush marketing that relies on clever use of copy to associate themselves with the Olympics. For example, after a mix-up between the North Korean and South Korean flags in the women's football tournament, glasses company Specsavers produced posters showing the two flags above the strapline 'Should have gone to Specsavers' in Korean.

Meanwhile, bookie Paddy Power threatened legal action after LOCOG ordered the removal of posters celebrating its sponsorship of the 'largest athletics event in London this year'. The sponsorship in question referred not to the Olympics, but to an egg-and-spoon race in a small village called London in the Savigny-sur-Seille region of France. LOCOG has since decided not to pursue the claim.

Ambush marketing plays by the rules

Rupert Pratt, managing director at sponsorship agency Generate, said: "The Olympic movement does a fantastic job of scaremongering to protect its sponsors but the reality is that if you look at the ambushing rules there is a lot that can be done. So far LOCOG is doing the smart thing by not getting dragged into a public battle with companies taunting it."

Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: "The Olympic brand restrictions cover most eventualities but there are bound to be some ads that make it through the gaps. Of course, companies that get it wrong will face sizeable fines. However, the potential benefits of a successful ambush marketing campaign are immense, meaning businesses will always keep trying to push the limits of what's allowed."

London 2012 brand guidelines

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has published extensive Olympic brand protection guidelines for businesses, outlining what is and isn't acceptable. For instance, non-Olympic brands are prohibited from buying and monetising domains containing the trademarks 'London 2012' or 'Olympic' like 'london2012booking.com'. They are also not allowed to produce marketing material that suggests an association with the Games, such as special promotions 'celebrating the London games'.

While LOCOG can take action against brands that fall foul of the rules, it does not allow companies to send over ad copy for a compliance check. Companies that are concerned their ads may be unacceptable are advised to seek independent legal advice.

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