Ambushing the Olympics

I’m sure you remember some of the best ambush marketing stunts…

 In 1996 Linford Christie appeared at an Olympics Press Conference wearing Puma contacts. During the 2006 Football World Cup 1,000 Dutch fans were told to remove their Bavaria lederhosen and watch the match in their underwear. At the 2010 Football World Cup 36 Dutch female supporters were escorted out of the Holland-Denmark match for wearing Bavaria miniskirts. And most recently, at the Rugby World Cup 2011 Manu Tuilagi was sanctioned for wearing a mouth guard bearing a sponsor’s name duringEngland’s first two games.

 

Ambush marketing is a tactical way for brands to cash in on major events without paying the premium to be a sponsor. Cracking down on these campaigns is essential to keep sponsors happy with their official association to events. If sanctions were not strict what would be the point of investing? And without sponsors’ funds how could organisations implement these events?

 With the 2012 Olympics approaching, it was announced last week that an amendment to the Olympics Act 2006 has been set to minimise ambush marketing. The change will reverse the customary burden of proof in criminal cases, making any perpetrators guilty until proven innocent.  

 However, I wonder whether these increases in red-tape and repercussions will really stop those considering cashing in on London’s largest event? It seems unlikely.

As Simon Massey puts it “The 2012 Olympic Games is owned by us all. As a Londoner, I have paid more tax to fund the Games, as have many businesses and brands against a promise of gain to the economy. Let us all benefit, within reason”.

 LOCOG are looking to clamp down on online keyword ambush marketing too. But how will they be able to prevent ambush marketing via mobile advertising or social media? Will any mention of the Olympics on a brands Facebook fan page be seen as ambush marketing? What about all the spectators being led through the biggest shopping mall in Europe as the gateway to the Olympic village –are all of these brands expected not to associate with the Olympics?

 A blur between brands and the Olympics already exists – can you actually name the official sponsors? I was surprised to discover that Nestle isn’t, despite their “Get set go free” campaign, which uses medal-prospect Tom Daley and is being aired in the Olympic run-up.

 Although I believe that sponsors need to be protected, I’m sure that this new legislation will inadvertently cause many brands to become guilty of ambush marketing. Unknowingly combining words, such as “Summer 2012” or even “London 2012”, and violating the 2005 Act. I agree entirely with Massey’s sentiment. It is important that LOCOG keeps in mind the benefits the Olympics brings to the wider economy and so creates a balance between their sponsors’ interests and that of the public and the games, since every UK tax-payer is contributing to London 2012.

Danielle Barrett

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