Proud to be British – an opportunity not to be missed


With the Olympic Games and the Diamond Jubilee approaching next summer, patriotism in Britain is on the increase. Both events will be celebrating Britain and what it means to be British, and will hope to have the same unifying affect that we saw with the Royal Wedding earlier in the year. I certainly have a renewed sense of national pride – it’s hard not to when (dodgy politicians and rioting youths aside) our capital city is soon to play host to the world with the arrival of the greatest sporting competition on the planet!


This increased public spirit and rejuvenated patriotism has presented a fantastic opportunity for innovative marketing agencies. Consumers full of patriotic fervour are drawn more and more to companies who celebrate or acknowledge their British heritage; no longer is the Union Jack seen as a negative or a marketing faux pas, but a positive, and something companies are becoming more keen to associate themselves with.


The challenge facing brands and marketing agencies, therefore is how to tap into this patriotic zeal and translate it into profit. But what makes this challenge more difficult is ensuring that any activity achieves this and, at the same time, respects the strict marketing regulations (particularly regarding ambush marketing) that have been set for businesses that are not official sponsors of the London 2010 Olympic Games.


Some brands are blazing the trail, with Vodafone recently unveiling its ‘London’s Calling’ campaign with a series of black cabs emblazoned with the Union Jack and Vodafone’s logo offering phone charging services to customers. We have also seen Nestle associate themselves with the Olympics sporting legacy in a bid to boost their image.


Virgin Media has adopted a more subtle angle with its recently revamped logo. By incorporating the Union Jack Flag into its logo, the business is visibly celebrating its British roots whilst also drawing in customers with a renewed pride in what it means to be British. Virgin’s executive director of brand and marketing communications, Jeff Dodds, explained: “At Virgin Media we’re extremely proud of our British heritage and wanted to find a way to symbolically remind people about all the fantastic things about our nation. With Britain celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and hosting the Olympic Games next year, we believe there is no better time to show our pride and excitement about what it means to be British.”

In the past the UK has generally tended to shy away from overt displays of patriotism but it now seems that, with the approaching Olympics, we have thrown aside our old inhibitions and are ready to embrace our national identity. It will be interesting to see which brands will be next to recognise and make the most of this Olympic and Jubilee-inspired national pride spreading across the nation –  without stepping on any sponsors’ toes, of course.



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

Has Bavaria’s ambush marketing backfired or is FIFA pursuing diminished returns?

It was announced last week that FIFA is to file a civil case against Bavaria, the brewer behind the now famous ambush marketing activity at the World Cup, as well as filing potentially very serious criminal charges against two Dutch women who are alleged to have organised the stunt.

Clearly commercial sponsorship should be taken seriously. A lot of time, effort and money goes into these agreements, 35% of the budget of an event like the World Cup can be made up with sponsors’ cash, and FIFA absolutely has a right to protect its own revenues and the investment of its offical event partners.

However, and this is what makes it so fascinating from a PR perspective, obviously FIFA are risking negative publicity for being too draconian – we now have two women who have a jail term hanging over their heads for wearing  orange dresses at a Holland match. But also, the greater the vehemence with which they complain, the greater the value of the stunt itself as it will only create more coverage. So the more FIFA try to discourage ambush marketing, the more they encourage it.

What will ‘the man on the street’ think about the above image?

One thing that must also be considered by FIFA’s PRs is the nuances of the situation. Ambush marketing, (other examples being Linford Christie’s Puma branded contact lenses at an Adidas sponsored pess conference, or cans of Pepsi being handed out by attractive women on rollerskates outside a Coca-Cola branded stadium) is more likely than other activity to appeal to the general public. It’s creative, generally amusing, and more often than not, a little bit clever and a little bit fun, and can be seen as contributing to the celebratory occasion.

FIFA must proceed with caution. It will be all too easy to see things from their sponsors’ perpective alone, with Budweiser certain to be calculating the financial value of another beer brand getting five seconds of abstract airtime. But from the PR perspective it’s about considering the impact on the public consciousness in the real world.

In fact, had FIFA kept their response a little further behind the scenes,  the cameras may have merely lingered on the group of striking Dutch supporters before moving on and the vast, vast majority of the watching public would have been none the wiser.