London 2012: How Brands Can Compete - Non-sponsors

Even brands that are not official sponsors of London 2012 can share in the Olympic spirit without falling foul of regulations.

Olympic stadium: David Poultney LOCOG
Olympic stadium: David Poultney LOCOG

Today marks the start of the six-month countdown to the London 2012 Olympics. Come the summer, all eyes will be on London and the UK, with more than 6,000 journalists expected to visit, and millions across the globe to watch events on TV. Here, PRWeek looks at what some of the official sponsors are doing and how the public has responded to their marketing activity so far, and off-ers advice on how non-sponsors can make the most of the opportunity. 

Brands without sponsorship

Any brand that is looking to use the London 2012 Olympics as a hook and is not a sponsor needs to proceed with caution. 

As Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ global director of sports marketing and sponsorship Andy Sutherden says: ‘The regulations around London 2012 are far more stringent than any previous Olympics. Seb Coe made an explicit point of saying brands will be breaking the law if they infringe on the rights of official sponsors.’

This strict legislation, and the promise to protect sponsors, has allowed LOCOG to secure a huge amount of sponsorship money – more than £700m. But the warning is unlikely to stop a raft of ‘ambush marketing’ stunts taking place this year, as brands attempt to create associations with the event through creative use of British patriotism and inferred alignment with the Games. 

There are signs that non-sponsors are already gearing up. Britvic, which is not an official sponsor, handed H+K a £250,000 brief in November to promote its soft drinks brands ahead of the 2012 Olympics. It will compete against official sponsor Coke.

Virgin Atlantic has also confirmed it is planning PR activity around the Olympics, even though it is not an official sponsor. Press officer Anna Catchpole says this is likely to focus on lobbying activity but will include some ‘other creative work with some press releases going out nearer the time.’ While she stresses that any activity will be carefully checked to ensure it complies with the legal guidelines, she say: ‘We will be using the high profile nature of the Olympic Games as an opportunity to reinforce our corporate campaigning messages. As the event will be attracting tourists from all over the world, it is a great opportunity for us to campaign around the aviation taxes and visa regulations that we would like to see relaxed and improved.’

It is understandable that brands may be clamouring for position on the world stage. As M&C Saatchi Sports and Entertainment MD Jamie Wynne-Morgan says: ‘It is too good an opportunity to miss out on for those that are not sponsors. I can see a lot of briefs being put out there in the coming months for agencies looking to make sure they are exploiting the opportunities.’

The key advice for any non-sponsors considering Olympic activity is to make sure they fully understand the rules – consult a lawyer if necessary.

The Legal position: What you need to know

The Olympics and London 2012 branding and marketing rights are protected in law under the London Olympic Games And Paralympic Games Act 2006 and The Olympic Symbol (Protection) Act 1995.  
Among the protected marks and branding are the Olympic rings, the Paralympic symbol, any London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic emblems and mascots and the phrase ‘London 2012’. The Team GB and Paralympics GB logos are also protected.
LOCOG has a team of four lawyers dedicated to dealing with breaches of the event’s marketing rights, which is known as ambush marketing. In some cases those who stage such promotions may be asked to take down any illegal material. If the breach is considered serious, LOCOG may seek a prosecution.
LOCOG says: ‘We try to resolve matters with a personal approach, speaking to the business in question, explaining why there is a problem and asking that it be rectified. To date, this approach has been successful in virtually all cases. We do, however, review each case individually.’

Go to LOCOG's site for more information

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London 2012: Five ways non-sponsors can take part

London 2012: Official sponsors' activity

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