Don’t Fall into the trap of Ambush Marketing

Don’t Fall into the Trap of Ambush Marketing

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) is concerned about the practice of ambush marketing where companies try to gain competitive advantage by basing their marketing campaigns on some aspect of the Olympic or Paralympic Games.

The reason it is so frowned on is that these sporting events cannot take place without sponsors who fork out large sums to have an exclusive association with them. If their non-sponsoring competitors jump on the bandwagon via the back door, they may think twice about committing themselves to further sponsorship.

Infamous Examples of Ambush Marketing

A notable example of ambush marketing at another sporting event occurred in the 2010 Football World Cup when Holland was playing Denmark. A Dutch brewery sent some gorgeous girls, dressed in orange mini dresses displaying the brewery’s logo, to mingle with the fans. This was seen as an unlawful commercial activity and two of the girls were arrested while the rest were sent packing.

In the case of the Olympics, there is competition from big business to become sponsors of such a high profile event, and those that are not quick enough off the mark often try to hijack the benefits of those that gain the advantage. For example, in 1996 the Games were held in Atlanta, USA, and the official sports clothing sponsor was Adidas. That company’s competitor, Nike, brazenly displayed its brand within the stadia and distributed free flags containing its logo to ticket holders, so that many people thought it was the official sponsor.

New Rules to Prevent this in 2012

But this year, new regulations on marketing rights have been put in place to prevent such activities, and stop the relating of products or services to the Games. Even the use of certain images, words and phrases which can be easily associated with the Games is prohibited. With revenues in excess of £100m raised from sponsorship, the IOC is expecting the London Organising Committee to protect the sponsors and vigorously pursue those in contravention through the courts.

If you don’t want your finances to be depleted by the heavy penalties for non-compliance, you would be well advised to issue a new policy document requiring your marketers to avoid making any reference to the Olympics. In particular, they should not combine naming the Games or the year with the words, gold, silver, bronze, medals, London, sponsors, summer – all words that connote aspects of this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games. For advice on employee policies, speak to your bookkeepers and office assistants.

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