Marketing Strategy

Thinking about leveraging this summer’s big event? Think again.


Something is happening in London this summer. Something not seen in the UK for generations.

However, my advice to any business hoping to ride the promotional wave, so to speak, is simple.

Don’t. Put all of your marketing strategy thinking elsewhere. You’ll thank me for it in the end.

You will, of course, know what I’m talking about.

However, if you think I’m being particularly cryptic, I am of course referring to the once-in-every-four-years gathering of people intent on pitting skill, stamina, technique and so on against the top representatives from other countries, usually in events involving getting from A to B faster than anyone else, throwing stuff a long way, leaping high into the air…

Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about the [City] [Year] [Event].

Oh dear. This isn’t getting any better, is it?

All of this ridiculous posturing has a serious point – one which every UK business needs to know.

The words 2012, London, Olympics, LOCOG, Team GB and Javelin are protected “either as registered trade marks, registered designs and/or by common law” (source: Guide To Protected Games Marks)

The words ‘Olympic, Olympian’ are protected by the Olympic Symbol Act.

Then there’s the ‘Listed Expressions’ which include Games, 2012, Twenty Twelve and so on (with a sub-clause for every colour of medal).

The very language that you might be considering using in your promotional work this year could land you in very, very hot water, because the Olympic organisers have taken huge steps to protect ‘the brand’ (check out their FAQs here for more information).

In fact, the protection is so deep that the organisers have even got an official Linking policy…

There is a legitimate reason for all of this, naturally (although saying that 2012 is protected just for the summer’s events is, in my view, ridiculous. I mean, how else am I meant to date letters all year?).

Brand hijacking is a serious business. Guerilla marketing is even more unpopular.

A lot of time and energy has been invested in the summer’s events and LOCOG don’t want any old business jumping on the national zeitgeist, because it will devalue the millions of pounds worth of sponsorship that they’ve been able to raise from the likes of BP.

What does all of this mean in practice?

Essentially, you need to ensure that you don’t create any marketing, advertising or other publicity works (including video or audio) that in any way suggests a link of any kind to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

In fact, that phrase alone could get you in deep water (I’m using it in a strictly editorial context so I’m OK. I hope. I’ll let you know – if the next post sees me clapped in irons and suddenly good friends with a 19-stone ex biker called Dorothy, you’ll know it’s all gone wrong).

If you own a chip shop, don’t offer ‘Olympic Portions’ – they won’t like it.

If you write a customer newsletter, don’t suggest that you’re Supporting The Games anywhere within it. That’ll also get you into trouble (even if you are supporting the Games by purchasing the official merchandise, watching it on TV, holding a street party to celebrate the huge medal haul that the UK will be obtaining…).

And it goes without saying that you must never, ever used any of the images associated with the Olympics or the Paralympics – their artwork/logos etc (but then you wouldn’t – that’s common sense). Read the Guide For Businesses for more information.

Following on from this, you also need to make sure that nothing you produce could be interpreted as tapping into the Olympic ideal through subtler means.

A dude running for the bus carrying a torch? Forget it.

Someone vaulting the bar set by other company’s customer service reps? I don’t think so.

Even schools aren’t immune. Setting up a mini-Olympics so that proud parents can watch their progeny hop in a brown sack from one of the field to the other isn’t going to get you any friends in high places, especially if it’s sponsored by an outside organisation. (Source: Guidelines for Non Commercial Use)

So where does this put businesses wanting to get in on the act and not let the biggest sporting event of a generation pass them by?

Somewhere out in the cold, I’m afraid. Which leaves me to offer one simple piece of advice for two simple reasons:

Advice: Don’t do anything relating to the London 2012 Olympic or Paralympic Games, unless you are an official partner/sponsor

Reason one: You’ll probably get told to cease and desist immediately, if not sooner.

Reason two: All your message will be is wallpaper. The media are going to be in a frenzy. The official partners are going to be in a frenzy. The athletes and their supporters are going to be in a frenzy.

So why waste your precious time and hard earned money yelling into a tornado, even if you can do so legally?

The old phrase Pick Your Battles has never felt more true.

So this year, crack a beer (or beverage of choice) and settle back to watch your favourite lycra clad athlete getting one over on the competition. Just don’t try to make a buck from it…

Later this week, I’ll be looking at what businesses CAN do to increase their brand awareness and bottom line from the Games, hopefully without getting sued into 2013 along the way.

(Just to clarify once more, this is an EDITORIAL piece. Not promotional, not linked to the games in any way, not trying to make a fast buck. So don’t sue me, LOCOG, please.)

Featured image used under Creative Commons from tableatny’s Flickr stream.

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3 thoughts on “Thinking about leveraging this summer’s big event? Think again.

  1. Great post. When people read the restrictions, they will be horrified. I don’t think many people have a clue about these. They also extend to external signage as well within a certain distance of the event, so if you are a business in London, don’t think you can simply put up some plastic banners and be OK.

    Be warned.

    Guerilla marketing will have one outcome – a big legal bill. It will not be worth it.

    See this as a challenge to be original.

    Whilst the Olympics will dominate media, there are a significant number of people who will not want to see everything 5-ring related for the next few months. Can you appeal to them?

    Can you leverage the notion, the ideals without mentioning any of the dreaded terms?

    Personally, I know why the restrictions are there; I appreciate the reasons and having worked on some Olympic ideas a few years ago understand the monies involved (think huge and double it) … but there is also some disappointment that as a country facing obesity and health challenges, there is NO SOCIAL aspect or community aspect to the games. What support exists is at the wishes of large corporate mega-sponsors. As a sports coach I do have a reservations about makers of obesity foods sponsoring Sport, but that is the deal we have made.

    If you want to support sport, avoid the Olym**** or 2*12 references, find a local sport or a club that you care about locally, find a team or sportspeople who espouse your values and support these. If you focus on people, improving lives and helping success, then the stories that YOU support are globally applicable and replicable!

    Want to get your story heard, be original, do something different.

  2. Pingback: 3 predictions, 1 consideration and 5 actions to help you make money from the Olympics « interacter

  3. Pingback: 1 thing LOCOG got badly wrong (and what they should have done instead) « interacter

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