Marketing At The London Olympics 2012

The sight of 36 Dutch models wearing orange mini-dresses to promote a well known beer brand certainly caught the media and world’s attention during the 2010 World Cup. Although this type of strategic ambush marketing is not new, it has increased over the past years.

In order to protect the official sponsors of the 2012 Olympic Games, who have invested £700 million, strict anti-ambush marketing legislation has being introduced. Ambush marketing can be described as any form of marketing, which is not by an official sponsor, with the aim of seeking to benefit from the high media profile and publicity of an event.

The new regulations encompassed in the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 (the ‘Act’) state that a person may not ‘engage in advertising activity in any event zone during the specified periods’. Advertisement covers many items such as words, images, sounds, costumes and representations. Advertising activity is defined widely and covers:

•    displaying, projecting or exhibiting any kind of advertisement,
•    carrying or holding an advertisement,
•    displaying an advertisement on an animal,
•    wearing a costume or clothing that is an advertisement and
•    distributing or providing a document for promotional purposes.

The regulations will only take effect in specifically mapped out ‘event zones’ (areas around the main Olympic venues) for the ‘event periods’ (3 weeks for the Olympic Games and 2 weeks for the Paralympic Games).

Greater onus has been placed on individuals to prove their innocence if they are accused of violating the rules. Individuals will have to prove that they had no knowledge of the activity or they took reasonable steps to prevent it happening in order to escape liability. This in itself is a challenge as how does one prove that an individual had no knowledge of such an act. If a person is found guilty of such an offence then he or she might face a criminal conviction, fines of up to £20,000, injunction or damages.

The increase in social media since the Beijing Olympics will make it harder to control ambush marketing. There are concerns that the new Act will not be able to cope with the speed of social media.

Companies are being encouraged to take a proactive approach by implementing written ‘anti-ambush marketing’ policies demonstrating that they have complied with the legislation by taking all reasonable steps to avoid a breach.

Establishing a ‘paper trail’ of how a company has complied with the regulations could be useful in terms of a defence.

Companies must also be aware that they cannot use any Olympic trademarks such as the 2012 logo and the Olympic rings in their marketing.

For more information please contact us on bbletso@pe-legal.com

Bryan Bletso
Partner
Pritchard Englefield

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