Non-sponsors look to circumvent LOCOG restrictions

LOCOG's 'draconian' PR and marketing rules spur non-sponsors to strike back.

Paddy Power: Unofficial Olympics campaign
Paddy Power: Unofficial Olympics campaign

Attempts by non-Olympic sponsors to outwit LOCOG are creating a 'David vs Goliath' climate during the Games, those behind ambush campaigns claim.

LOCOG's 'draconian' stance over enforcing its marketing rule book has 'amplified the story' about rival brands, according to Taylor Herring co-founder James Herring, who represents Paddy Power.

As part of a marketing and PR counter-strike, Paddy Power, Scottish brewer Brewdog, Oddbins and Nike have all launched unofficial Olympic PR and marketing campaigns.

Herring said: 'The draconian brand policing mobilised opinion against both the sponsors and LOCOG, and created David vs Goliath-type brand battles with sympathy firmly on the side of the underdog.'

While a PRWeek survey (27 July) revealed strong brand association between sponsors and the Olympics, news of a clampdown on spectators who displayed the logos of non-sponsors has served to increase web traffic to the sites of non-sponsors such as Pepsi - which reported an increase of 53 per cent in one day - and Nike.

Mission PR's head of corporate Andrew Murray-Watson said an Oddbins stunt to provide a 30 per cent discount to customers wearing logos of non-sponsors 'was bigger than it would have been otherwise' because of LOCOG's strict rules.

He said: 'Few companies are prepared to test the extent of LOCOG restrictions, but this provided an opportunity for creative agencies in London to find ways to circumvent them.'

While LOCOG is still considering the Oddbins case, Murray-Watson said: 'We are very confident we weren't in breach'.

Twitter, in particular, has been a fertile breeding ground for non-sponsor campaigns, despite the Olympic restrictions being rigorously applied to social media sites.

US athletes have launched their own social media campaign against Rule 40 - which prohibits any brand other than an official sponsor from being named - using the hashtag #wedemandchange2012.

Nike's head of PR and comms, Ryan Greenwood, said: 'This summer is an opportunity to create a tremendous amount of energy and exposure for our products. We used Nike-sponsored athletes as part of our Greatness campaign prior to Rule 40 restrictions coming into effect.

'We then updated the campaign to include young "everyday" athletes from the UK.'


Joy Doyle, International PR manager, Virgin Atlantic Airways

We are planning to capitalise on the halo effect of London being seen on the global stage to encourage people to visit the City postOlympics. Our global PR reps have told us that the opening ceremony went down a treat. Our next focus will be to give great reasons to travel to London, such as Fashion Week.

Peter Burling, Client services director, Brazen

Non-sponsors are getting noticed using a mix of clever tactics including news-making around related topics, championing human interest stories and piggybacking on the thousands of community events that have occurred up and down the country.


27,000 - Tweets per second during London 2012 compared with 27 in Beijing*

55 - Number of official Olympic sponsors, collectively paying £1.4bn**

£20k - Maximum fine LOCOG can impose under rules introduced for London**

20 - The length in pages of LOCOG's briefing on rules and regulations*

Source: *London Evening Standard; **LOCOG

See how three non-sponsors used an Olympic theme to promote their brands

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