The Olympic and Paralympic Games are heading for London, and we’re all counting down the days until the Olympic torch makes its voyage along the Thames to the Olympic Stadium.  It is therefore not surprising that business owners, both in London and Nationwide, are considering every which way they can, to attempt to cash in on such a major event.  But be warned, the brands, the words and the logos are heavily protected, and even the slightest association with both the Olympic and Paralympic Games in your marketing material will not be allowed.

As Host City of the 2012 Games, London was immediately required to fulfil various obligations under the Host City Contract.  One of these being to ensure that the official sponsors of the games are protected.  There is in fact an Act of Parliament, The London Olympic and Paralympic Games Act 2006, in place that contains provisions to attempt to put a stop to any ‘ambush marketing’, with LOCOG being given the rights to authorise certain persons to associate themselves with the games.

There’s plenty of evidence of ambush marketing during previous Olympic Games.  Here’s Li Ning in Beijing 2008 flying through the air infront of 4 billion or so people to light the Olympic flame. This famous gymnast, on whose name the company Li Ning Limited markets its sports products, stole the show in the opening ceremony with a high wire act to light the flame and open the Beijing Olympics. He also stole the show by being dressed head to toe in Li Ning sportswear, rather than the key sponsor Adidas. The company’s share price increased by over 3% on the first day of trading after that opening ceremony.
Quantas cashed in on Sydney 2000 by having the slogan ‘The Spirit of Australia’ which was thought to be remarkably close to the official slogan of the Games ‘Share the Spirit’. At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics Nike sponsored press conferences with the US basketball team despite Reebok being the games’ official sponsor. In Atlanta ’96 Puma were quick with their ambush marketing campaign by getting athletes to wear Puma contact lenses.  Here’s Linford sporting his pair:
With Official Partners such as Coca Cola, McDonalds and Visa, who have paid millions to have their brand associated with such a prestigious event, it is likely that London 2012 will see some of the strictest anti-ambushing rules ever enforced.  LOCOG advised just last week that they will be paying special attention to social media and digital platforms.  Twitter for an example, are likely to control the use of promoted tweets such as #London2012.  LOCOG will be doing their best to prevent unauthorised brands from using the games as a global springboard.
According to the London 2012 website:
“Olympic and Paralympic brands are incredibly powerful.  They evoke the emotion, excitement and values of the games….To ensure we maintain both the emotional and commercial value of the brand, we need to carefully control its use and prevent its unauthorised exploitation.”
So what is protected?  What can you do to give your business an Olympic marketing boost, without treading on anyone’s toes?  The London 2012 website provides a wealth of information to help you to steer your business clear of infringing. You must not use the Games Marks, or create an association with the Games, unless you are entitled to do so.
Lets take a look at the ‘Games Marks’.  There are of course the obvious ones… the official logos, the rings, the emblems.  But there are also a number of word marks that enjoy protection, and therefore their use must also be avoided in your marketing literature.  You can view illustrations of the marks here and to the right.
You will see the Olympic and Paralympic symbols, the London 2012 and Paralympic emblems, and of course the London 2012 mascots – Wenlock and Mandeville.  But also the words ‘London 2012′, various configurations of the word ‘Olympic’ and ‘Paralympic’, the mottos, the Team GB logos and even the London 2012 Sports Pictograms.  You must steer clear of using all of these.

These marks are relatively easy to avoid.  We know what they are, and to be fair most are relatively obvious.  But the grey area is the fact that you must not ‘create an association with the Games’. So what exactly constitutes as association?  Well LOCOG have provided an example of an advert that would not be allowed, and here it is.

The combination of London skyline and athlete carrying what can only be an Olympic Torch, along with the words used in the advert, provide a sufficient association with the games that LOCOG would object to.  So by association they quite simply mean any sort of link that implies a connection with the games.

It is of course a criminal offence to sell or advertise goods that bear a controlled representation.  Therefore when it comes to ‘cashing in’ on such a presigious occasion happening right on our doorstep, your marketeers need to think twice about incorporating any Olympic ‘association’ in their campaigns, or deploying any ambush marketing tactics. 

By Charlie Ashworth

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