This week, sandwich chain Subway and delivery service FedEx, whose competitors McDonald’s and UPS are official Games sponsors, unveiled multimillion-pound campaigns featuring athletes.
Earlier this year, Honda, whose rival BMW is the automotive sponsor, was investigated by Locog following a campaign featuring four Olympic athletes.
Subway’s campaign across TV, outdoor, digital and social, which launches today (Wednesday 9 May), features pole-vaulter Holly Bleasdale and boxer Anthony Ogogo.
The athletes, who will be competing at the Games for Team GB, discuss their favourite subs and their personal goals. The ads use the strapline, "Train hard. Eat fresh".
Later this month, FedEx plans to run a heavyweight press campaign and unveil a digital platform, as part of a partnership with SportsAid. Under the deal, the delivery firm will provide awards of £1000 to 25 "future Olympians and Paralympians" who will feature in the campaign.
Manaaz Akhtar, the head of marketing for Subway, denied that the athletes activity was ambush marketing, adding that it was a long-term programme and not timed around the Olympics.
In the US, the chain has a long-standing partnership with swimmer Michael Phelps.
However, Akhtar said Subway would be "taking down all marketing material" during the Locog-imposed "blackout", which runs from 18 July to 15 August. "We’ve gone through rounds of legal checks," she said. "It’s all very above-board."
Nigel Currie, director of sports marketing agency brandRapport, said the issue puts Locog in a "tricky" situation. "If brands sign athletes and provide them with income it will be looked on badly if they are then told they can’t do this, but Locog has to protect sponsors," he said.
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk