Branding and the Olympics

by Brad VanAuken, BrandForward, Inc.

An interesting side story on the London Olympics (Games of the XXX Olympiad) is the power of brand sponsorships and the battle against ambush marketing. Olympic organizers have hired about 250 “brand police” to patrol the London streets to make sure brands that are not official sponsors of the Olympics are not presenting themselves in ways that mislead the public to believe that they are. The organizers raised more than $1 billion from official sponsorships. Given that amount of money, it only makes sense that some resources would be committed to minimizing ambush marketing, which had been significant at several previous Olympic games.

Wikipedia defines ambush marketing as “a marketing strategy wherein the advertisers associate themselves with, and therefore capitalize on, a particular event without paying any sponsorship fee.”

The first major example of ambush marketing occurred in 1984 when the International Olympic Committee awarded a sponsorship contract to Fuji. Kodak responded by purchasing large amounts of advertising space. Because of Kodak’s extensive advertising during the Olympic Games, the public perceived both Kodak and Fuji to be sponsors of the event, much to Fuji’s frustration. In subsequent sporting events, Nike has done this to Adidas, as has Pepsi to Coca-Cola.

Since then, New Zealand, Canada and the International Trademark Association (among other entities) have enacted legislation against ambush marketing.

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