When rebrands go wrong

(And how to avoid the pitfalls)

Top Olympic branding breaches

In the week that the “branding police” set out to enforce sponsors’ exclusivity rights to the Games, Marketing Week picks out the most memorable/petty/ridiculous (delete where you think applicable) Olympic brand breaches that have been uncovered so far.

Mum banned for wearing charity wristband during Torch Relay


Earlier this month, Olympic chiefs reportedly told the mother of an injured soldier that she could not wear a wristband for the charity Help for Heroes while she ran the Torch Relay in Rochester today (20 July). Jessica Cheesman had raised £8,000 for the charity after her son Stephen was badly injured in Iraq in 2007.

Tamworth town traders banned from using Olympic branding


Traders in Tamworth are said to have been warned last month that they cannot use the Olympic brand or words associated with the event in the marketing of their businesses. The move was labelled “restrictive” and “pathetic” by businesses, with owners advised to display Union flags as an alternative.

Olympic Cafe owner forced to change name


When it was announced in 2005 that London would be hosting the 2012 Games businesses rushed to adopt an Olympic-themed name. Kamel Kichane, manager of Cafe Olympic in Stratford is thought to have been forced to change the name of his diner to Lympic after he was told he could face legal action over the use of the word Olympic.

Kate Middleton’s family rapped for Olympic breach


Party Pieces, the party planning company owned by the Duchess of Cambridge’s family, is believed to have been the subject of an investigation by Locog earlier this month after claims that it infringed brand protection laws. The site is said to have been selling a range of Olympic-related goods in a section titled ‘Celebrate the Games’ and was illustrated with the Olympic torch. The owners were ordered to make “minor changes” to the site or pay a fine.


Olympic ring bagels banned from cafe window

Southwark council reportedly ordered the owner of a cafe in Camberwell to take down five bagels arranged in the stye of the Olympic rings this month. The display breached exclusivity laws, which prevents non-sponsors from using the Olympic rings in their marketing activity.


Primary school children banned from wearing any other trainers except Adidas

School children taking part in the athletes parade ahead of the Olympic Ceremony have been reportedly “encouraged” to wear Adidas or unbranded footwear or risk being turned away. The Guard of Honour will be beamed into TV sets around the world. The warning marks the latest in a series of crackdowns by Olympics chiefs as they look to enforce the sponsors’ exclusivity rights to the Games.


Shop owner forced to take down Olympic bunting

Branding police reportedly forced a Stoke Newington shopkeeper to tear down down his Games-themed decorations just hours before the Hackney leg of the torch relay last weekend (21 July). Balloons flags and bunting were all removed from the East end shop after the purple uniformed officers insisted the decorations were “unofficial” and breached Olympic branding laws.


Sweater for doll removed from church charity

The British media, which has never seen an underdog it didn’t love, reports that an 81-year old grandmother of six was ordered by branding sleuths to withdraw a doll’s jumper from sale because it bore the Olympic rings. The child’s toy was to be sold at a church charity fare in Norfolk.


BBC presenter’s umbrella confiscated by Olympic brand police

Radio 5Live’s cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew was reportedly forced to hand over his umbrella by stewards because it bore the logo of a non-sponsor. Agnew told listeners the breach had happened at Lords Cricket Ground, where he was covering the Olympic archery event, tweeting that it had “Fallen foul of branding regs – brolly confiscated becasue it has a golf name on it.”


Pimms banned from Wimbledon Olympic venue

The signature drink of the All England Club tournament was banned to protect the exclusivity rights of sponsors such as Coca-Cola and Heineken, according to reports. Diageo owned Pimms is not an official sponsor of the Games and so brand police were forced to prohibit the drink’s appearance during the tournament, which was one by Team GB’s Andy Murray yesterday (5 August).


Olympic chiefs ban photo contest run by non-sponsors

London 2012 lawyers have reportedly banned a crowdsourced competition using amateur photographs taken by spectators inside Olympic venues. It meant that lens manufacturer and non-Olympic sponsor Sigma Imaging UK was forced to re-think its ad campaign or risk being fined by organisers


Readers' comments (14)

  • I think the branding police are taking it too far. Fair enough protecting the rights of sponsors against ambush threats from other big name competitors, e.g. Nike threatening Adidas' official sponsorship, but attacking small businesses is just ridiculous. They're hardly going to steal business and profit from the official sponsors.

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  • Protection of intellectual property is important, but the way LOCOG have approached this makes a mockery of the whole principle of intellectual property. Over the past few years the public have become much more aware, through the activities of the IPO, FACT, British Brands and ACID of the importance of protecting intellectual property, but LOCOG's antics risk setting back all those positive advances, because they have created a very negative spin to the concept of protecting brands. This is going to impact on small companies who are the most vulnerable.

    As for the LOCOG guidelines, whoever drafted them should be sacked! And they should be closely followed by whoever passed them! Guidelines are supposed to be clear. These are complete gobbledegook. The idea of having two groups of words which if combined in a certain way may be or may not be in breach is not Plain English, it's Plain Stupid!!

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  • I thought the whole point of the Olympics was a message of everybody together. So why should small companies not be aloud to benefit for 2 weeks in a once in a lifetime opportunity. In times where individual shops on high streets are disapearing rapidly this is a massive opportunity for them to create extra revenue which might be the difference between them staying open for another year or shutting down next week, yet people take that opportunity away from them to pump more and more money into the 'Larger' sponsors.

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  • It's so silly it's almost funny. But on the serious side it show show corrupt the values of the Olympics have come. Sadly the brand of the Olympics have been devalued here in the UK. Even China was as authoritarian. It's no longer about sport, no longer a people's event but all about the sponsorship. It displays all the values of an event run by bankers. These are just a few of the authoritarian measures taken against the public as they wish to celebrate. The shocking fact is that these rules and even laws were brought in under pressure from big brands, which begs the question, who runs our Parliament, us or them?

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  • The real winners are the legal profession!

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  • The Olympics is corrupt, is all about money and has been for years, but cynically markets itself otherwise. Don't watch them, and hopefully the monster will die.

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  • Saw the most dramatic manifestation of this nonsense in Australia during the 2003 Rugby World Cup. The famous final between Australia and England was held in a stadium sponsored by either Telstra or Vodafone (can't remember, didn't care!). England happened to be sponsored by O2 which was emblazoned on the front of the expensive replica shirts virtually every fan in white wore (if there was an option to purchase the shirts sans advertising I'm sure 98% would have said yes!). We happened to be at the stadium early and were stopped at the gates as we attempted to enter. The "guards" pointed out that the Australian owners had stipulated that no-one wearing competitor advertising was to be allowed into the stadium and we were told to take off our shirts. While we argued, several thousand England fans disembarked from the next train, all clad in the same shirts....Albeit no-one gave a monkey's about branding affairs, the argument didn't last long....

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  • Things like the bagel removal are asinine. The country wants to have fun and get involved - and can't. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity funded by the UK taxpayer. If we can't participate, what's the point?

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  • The big brands are ruining their own reputations and polluting their brand space. Every time I see a sponsor bleating about their Olympic credentials - I immediately think don't buy that product!

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  • i'm waiting for the olympic committee to ban the anti-drug committee from using images of a person injecting; stealing olympic-athlete theme.

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