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Is anyone winning the Olympic Games? - How LOCOG stole 'summer'

With a week to go until the Olympics begin, it has been revealed that almost 300 officials will be touring Britain to make sure that companies not associated with the Games are not using protected words - with ‘summer’ and ‘London’ listed amongst the words which cannot be used.

Under the guidelines, using two out of the four words ‘games’; ‘two thousand and twelve’; ‘2012’; and ‘twenty-twelve’ would bring you down on the wrong side of the sponsorship rules; while using one of those words with the word ‘London’; ‘medals’; ‘sponsors’; ‘summer’; ‘gold’; ‘silver’ or ‘bronze’ would also make a company fall foul of the rules.

The potential fine for those caught breaking the rules is up to £20,000, and there is a chance that there could also be a jail term, following the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006.

When asked by The Drum how likely it was that those in breach would be made to pay the full amount, and how difficult a position LOCOG was in when deciding who to punish, spokesperson Helen Holman replied: “We will take a firm but pragmatic approach to ambush marketing at Games time and deal with any issues on a case by case basis. Our approach is always to educate, rather than to legislate.”

However, LOCOG did not provide a response when asked what had been done to make sure that all businesses knew what words were protected and therefore couldn’t be used.

Speaking to The Drum at Cannes, Coca-Cola’s chief marketer Joe Tripodi defended LOCOG’s regulations: “They feel that they really need to protect our rights and they’ve done a nice job. I know the press in GB can be a little harsh and cynical at times, but fundamentally it’s something that has to be done and it’s down to the way you do it, and I don’t think we’ve seen LOCOG giving me pause to say ‘we’ve got to talk to them in the spirit of the Olympics. Their enforcement is appropriate given the amount of money that the sponsors are putting in.”

While he admitted he did not mind smaller retailers trying to cash in on the Olympics, he said he did mind bigger rivals who turned to ambush marketing, commenting: “Fundamentally we have a massive investment in that programme and the organising committee is dedicated to protecting the investment of the sponsors because without the sponsors, there’s no Olympic Games.”

The crackdown to protect these sponsored brands during the Olympics has been in the news a lot recently, with the ‘Chipgate’ outrage from last week – when it was revealed that only chips from McDonald’s would be on sale in the Olympics grounds – making some wonder if the exclusivity deals has gone too far.

It was revealed at the start of June that all 27 ATMS at various Olympic venues have been replaced, by eight Visa ATMs, as part of an exclusivity deal. This means that those with MasterCard’s won’t be able to take money out – which could prove a serious problem for some, although tickets in the UK could only be bought using Visa in the first place.

Lloyd’s head of Olympic marketing, Sally Hancock, has also shared her thoughts on the restrictions with The Drum, when she said: “Really, it is about having fun and celebrating. It is all within a certain degree of reason and good humour. Were 300 people to show up wearing Barclays football shirts and sit in a cluster within the stadium then year, I’d pretty much want that seen to but are we going to be concerned about one bloke walking in with a football shirt that says Barclays on it – of course not. That doesn’t make sense. We should be confident enough in our own activity to worry about those things and I am confident enough.”

The crackdown on use of the Olympic rings has also been seen as some as overly tough, with an 81 year-old-woman warned that if she sold a doll wearing a knitted top featuring the symbol she could face legal action.

However, while Olympic zones will be strongly advertiser-only, official ad partner CBS Outdoor revealed this week that half of all advertising space near Olympic venues has been sold to non-sponsors.

It was discovered that LOCOG had allowed non-sponsors to buy ads within a few hundred metres of venues as long as they were for art, film or theatre companies, which were judged to not be in competition with any of the sponsors.

Taxi advertising is also allowed as part of the Olympics, with many marketers jumping on this bandwagon in order to bring their brand closer to the Games than they may otherwise be allowed.

With traffic set to get all the more crowded over the company months, time spent in a cab will also increase, meaning a larger time for potential consumers to stare at adverts, whether these are in cabs or on the Underground – perhaps making the two ‘allowed’ ways for non-sponsors to participate the most lucrative?

Olympic poster via Brandalism