Why businesses should be avoiding Olympic themed promotions

5 minute read

With the Olympic games coming to London at the end of July and the press coverage building, it’d be easy for any business to want to be part of this historic event. Themed promotions are a great way of engaging with your customers and recognising their interests. However in this post I’ll explore the marketing regulations surrounding the games, and why it’s probably best to avoid the Olympics for your upcoming promotional campaigns.

What’s the deal?

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) have created a comprehensive set of regulations regarding how the forthcoming games can be promoted – by companies, athletes, and even visitors. As part of this there are a large number of terms and phrases that should be avoided – deemed Games’ Marks. The legislation that has been brought is detailed and makes for a lengthy read, but the general jist of it is that LOCOG are trying to protect those businesses that have paid to be associated with the games. That list includes big brand names such as Adidas, McDonalds and Cadbury.

What does it mean?

To start with, athletes can’t talk publicly about eating or using a certain product (for example) if it’s not an official sponsor, and businesses in the area can’t make reference to the fact that a game might be on their door step. For example, if you’re a pub you’ll be restricted from advertising that your venue is showing the games on a big screen. For other businesses you can’t use any images/logos associated with the games (they’re so strict on this that a Twitter account was shut down recently for such an infringement). You also can’t make reference to terms such as ‘London 2012’ or even the word ‘Olympics’, especially not in conjunction with words such as ‘gold’, ‘silver’ and ‘bronze’. Why? The London 2012 website explains that the Olympics and its surrounding symbols are one of the most valuable brands in the world, and the organisers are obliged by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to protect its value.

These restrictions have certainly been met with some hostility; you only have to read Business Insider’s article to understand how strict the advertising rules are. One example includes a football stadium renaming itself for the duration of the games. To defend LOCOG’s actions Lord Coe, chairman of the London 2012 organising committee, has defended the strict policy and stated that the brands of those companies putting money into the games had to be protected. Without them, he argues, the cost would fall heavily upon UK taxpayers.

Are you going to the Olympics?

I’ve been lucky enough to get a ticket to one of the events but was surprised to read that I’ll need to be careful about the content I post online. The Guardian report that visitors can’t post videos to YouTube; OK no surprise there, but I’m also prohibited from posting photos to my Facebook page. While I can appreciate that there are strict rules, we’ve seen social media come into its element during national events, such as the Jubilee and Wimbledon, so it would have been nice to share my Olympic experience online.

All in all, avoiding Olympic themed promotions is likely to be the safest bet for your business. If this means going back to the drawing board, think about other events that your customer base might be interested in over the coming months – the fine British weather we’re currently having is certainly a popular topic of conversation at the moment! Agree or disagree with LOCOG’s policy? Get in touch with us in the comments box below.