On Your Mark, Get Set, Whoa–London 2012 Advertisers Beware

“Summer’s here and the time is right for racin’ . . . .” Racin’ In The Street, Bruce Springsteen

The Summer Olympics, or “The Games of the XXX Olympiad” as I like to call them in lighter moments, will soon be upon us. And that means hours of televised ceremonies, thrills of victory, agonies of defeat, all conveniently brought into our homes or mobile devices by the Networks of NBC Universal, or as Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock would say “NBC/GE/Universal/KMart.” And all those hours of televised competition mean one thing for American audiences–hours of heart warming, heart-rending, heart wrenching . . . commercials!

For advertisers brave enough, bold enough, and rich enough to pony up the millions needed to become an “Official Olympic Partner,” the upcoming tournament in London promises to be an unparraleled commercial bonanza. Companies such as Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Visa, and Adidas not only gain access to a vast audience held captive by the prospects of seeing Michael Phelps try to upstage himself, guessing which track or biking star will fail a drug test, and other competitive dramas in the pool, the gym, the track, and the field. Their costly investment in the Olympics also gives official partners the right to use the Olympic names, slogans and logos, including the iconic “Interlocking Rings,” and the words “Olympics,” “Olympic Games,” and “London 2012.” These symbols and names are like the steroids of the advertising world–boosting the impact of any commercial or print ad they happen to adorn. And best of all, unlike steroids, the use of these Olympic brands is perfectly legal, as long as you pay the hefty price.

And those unwilling or unable to afford becoming an Official Partner beware! The organizers of the London Games are primed to squelch so-called “ambush marketing”–attempts by “unofficial” sponsors to invoke the image and aura of the Olympics and the London Games. Any unauthorized use of the Rings or other Olympic brands will likely end up being contested, first by letter, and then, if need be in court.

But just refraining from using the Olympic brands may not be enough to avoid the ire of the authorities. In the UK, special bespoke laws tailored especially for London 2012 aim to choke–off any allusion to athletic competition. So for example, an ad that conjures scenes from the the classic film about the Olympics of yore, Chariots of Fire, might be off-limits. The law even created a zone around the Olympic venues where you must either be an Official Partner to advertise, or you must go home.

Britain just celebrated the Queen’s jubilee with pageantry fitting for Merry Olde England. But the special laws cracking down on ambush marketing at the London Games harken back to another, more sinister, axe-happy British monarch–Henry the VIII.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “My Lord, if it were not to satisfy the world, and my Realm, I would not do that I must do this day for none earthly thing.” Henry VIII

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