When rebrands go wrong

(And how to avoid the pitfalls)

Non-sponsors on alert as Olympic branding police assemble

Non-sponsors looking to ambush the London 2012 Games have been placed on alert by Olympic chiefs from today as hundreds of brand police begin a summer long drive to protect sponsors’ exclusivity rights to the sporting event.


The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) is employing almost 300 hundred people to crack down on guerrilla marketing stunts by monitoring vendors operating within 500m of Olympic sites in London.

Wearing purple uniforms, the experts in advertising and trading legislation will also be charged with checking venues on the Olympic park and have the power to tape over brand logos on-site if companies are found guilty of flouting regulations.

Businesses who break the rules, which legal experts have called the most stringent for an Olympic Games, could be taken to court, with punishments including fines up to £20,000.

A spokesman for the ODA says: “The Olympic Delivery Authority is responsible for enforcing rules laid down by Parliament, which apply only within a few hundred metres of competition venues and on a temporary basis shortly before and during the Games.

“This legislation regulates open-air trading in public places to ensure that spectators can get without delay or obstruction to the events they have paid to attend, and requires authorisation to be obtained for some types of advertising in the same areas to prevent so-called ambush marketing.  The rules apply to sponsors as much as to any other business.”

It comes as Locog has warned businesses not to use terms from a list of banned words that includes “gold”, “sponsors” and “London”. Locog will enforce these rules separately to the operation being conducted by the ODA.

Olympic chiefs have continuously stressed that without the restrictions in place sponsors including Coca-Cola, Samsung and Cadbury would not have invested in the event, which has raised almost £700m “in a very difficult environment”.

Last month, Lord Seb Coe told Marketing Week that the investment from sponsors had changed the area of East London in a way that “politicians wouldn’t have done”.

The operation by the ODA, which is being called the biggest branding operation in the UK, is launching in the same week that Olympic chiefs are invoking a blackout for non-sponsors to use athletes in their promotions. The regulation will also prevent athletes from posting tweets about their individual sponsors as part of a social media and blogging policy to ensure that they don’t accidentally break regulations. During Games Period (18 July to 15 August) athletes as well as spectators at any Olympic venue will banned from making any reference to non-sponsors on the micro-blogging site.

Despite this, Locog and Twitter are still yet to agree on how the digital guidelines will be enforced during the Games, which are being billed as the first “social Olympics”.

Readers' comments (15)

  • Banned words - 'London'. Ridiculous

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  • and that's why I for one go out of my way NOT to buy any products from official 'sponsors'.

    They are giving both marketing and the Olympics a bad and very nasty image.

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  • Gets more like 1984 every day. The sad thing is this is all about money not the real values the Olympics use to represent.

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  • Funny thing is my company is a gold sponsor of a few London events in 2012, just like we were for the last 10 years. This is a farce. If the games cost £9.3 billion to run then sponsors cover 8%, however how much is it costing to deliver their deals? When it is costing £31M each event to host 300 events it shouldn't be hard to cut 8% off the costs and give the sponsorship opps to charities instead.

    Also I have to ask if you run an event, why do you get the best seats in the event as well?? Having paid top prices for tickets only to find they are in the worst position you have to ask what is going on?

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  • I appreciate the need to ensure the sponsors gain maximum impact from their investment but these regulations are absurd.

    I agree- Banned words- 'London' Ridiculous!

    So what if a spectator attending the Olympics adds a status update on Facebook and it adds their location as Olympic Park, London?!

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  • In consideration for the banned words mentioned above, I have a rent review to do of a shop property in Stratford, not on Avon, and am contemplating inspecting the premises during the week when apparently there is some sort of plush rave named after an ancient city happening nearby at which there may be thousands of people with nothing better to do than to confuse the logo of four three-dimensional rings on my car and briefcase stuffed with a loaf of fresh home-made additive-free and preservative-free bread and five fishes caught fresh and a bottle of water filtered from a mountain stream, so take all leave of their senses and instead of worshipping and celebrating the hype by pouring gallons of fizzy coloured water down their throats and tucking into white refined gooey substance masquerading as food would gather round in the hope of freely tasting a morsel before dispersing to their homes or nearby public houses to watch on television news of my arrival in their midst.

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  • I was going to say a few words of comment, but they are all banned by LOCOG

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  • Its strange how they take into account the needs of the sponsors who have paid £800m towards the event but fail to take into account the mood of the 60m British people who pad the other £8.2bn for the games. The ironic thing is that the big sponsors are trying to protect their sponsorship positioning by cracking down on other people piggybacking yet they fail to see how harmful stories like this are to their brand as a whole.

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  • What happens if your business is called 'The London Gold Company' ?

    Will you be compensated by LOCOG for lost revenues from not being able to advertise?

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  • The Olympics are supposed to benefit British businesses as the host nation. However if no one can do anything marketing related to the Olympics- how can British businesses benefit? Only the large global brands can benefit and afford the sponsorship fees; so how do we as a host nation benefit from that?!

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