Olympics crack down on guerrilla marketing

The 2012 Olympic Games in London will impose unprecedented restrictions on ambush marketing – heralding a plethora of opportunities for the PR industry, say leading consultants.

The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act was passed last week. It introduced tough laws on intellectual property rights that will force companies to be more creative in their message delivery.

The act strengthens existing legislation against the use of distinctive marks such as the Olympic rings. It also outlaws certain combinations of words (see box).

The legislation, demanded by the International Olympic Committee
of host cities, is partly a response to claims of association on the internet. The web has made it easy for firms to pass themselves off as official partners.

Four Communications sports marketing and sponsorship MD Alun James said: 'With advertising restricted, PR will be a viable alternative.' Declan Cushley, IP partner at law firm Browne Jacobson, said: 'We have seen the rise of guerrilla marketing, but those aiming to use the Olympics through viral and underground marketing need to be very careful.'

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games hopes the move will help it meet its sponsorship target of £2bn. Firms that breach the law face criminal charges and hefty fines.

'This could prove a huge opportunity to build an association without implying an official connection,' said Claire Mason, founder of professional services PR agency Man Bites Dog.

London 2012: banned combinations of words

* The banned combinations are: (i) Games, 2012, Two Thousand and Twelve, Twenty Twelve; and (ii) gold, silver, bronze, London, medals, sponsor and summer.

* According to the new legislation: 'If two or more words in the first group, or any combination of words from the first and second groups, are used together, then in the absence of evidence to the contrary there will be a presumption that this is likely to create in the public mind an association with the London Olympics.'

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