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Action Replay: Playing Partners

The Olympics will soon be on us, with their massive TV and press coverage and their never-ending opportunities for sponsorship and money-making, as well as some sporting contests. The International Olympic Committee is a brand in its own right and a very powerful one at that, as it can require host governments to introduce legislation protecting its copyright.

So in 2006 the UK parliament passed the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act, which went even further than existing law in preventing companies who have not paid for sponsorship or partnership rights from making any use of Olympic terminology or symbols. Even using ‘Games’ and ‘2012’ together might constitute an offence, unless you’ve paid for permission. So Coke and Adidas (as official sponsors) will be OK, but Pepsi and Nike will have to be very careful about what they say. During the Games themselves, athletes will not even be able to blog about their breakfast cereal unless it’s made by a Games sponsor. A spokesperson for the local organising committee put it bluntly: “Without the investment of our partners, we simply couldn’t stage the Games.”

This is not working as well as those behind it might wish, however, with so-called ambush marketing (where a non-sponsor manages to link itself to an event in some way) proving very effective. Thus Adidas is apparently less associated with the Games in people’s minds than Nike, and British Airways (the official airline partner) less so than Lufthansa.

Just imagine the effort that intelligent and creative people are putting into ensuring that companies keep within the law but exploit the Olympics for their own profit.