With the London 2012 Olympic Games fast approaching advertisers
and marketers must be careful how they associate themselves with
the Olympics and the Olympic brand.
The success of an Olympic Games is not only measured by athletic
achievements on the track or in the gymnasium. The economic success
of the Games has a substantial impact on a host city's Olympic
legacy. Economic success is assessed by the host city's ability
to maximize income generated from corporate sponsorship, media
rights, tourism and ticket sales. Protecting the Olympic brand is a
key feature of any Games' commercial success. Olympic brand
protection finds its basis in the Olympic Charter. Historically,
the Olympic movement has zealously protected the use and licensing
of the Olympic Brand.
Global brand protection framework
It is incumbent upon the host country to manage domestic
sponsorship, ticketing and licensing programs under the direction
of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC ensures that
host countries comply with specific guidelines regarding
intellectual property protection. For this reason, similar Olympics
laws have been drafted in several countries prior to hosting the
Games. The implementation of these laws ensures that the profit
generated from use of the Olympic brand stays inside the Olympic
"family". Also, protecting and enforcing the intellectual
property is essential to ensure that the Olympic Games remains a
viable financial reality, with huge money coming from the select
few corporate sponsorships.
All of the official names, phrases, marks, logos are designs
associated with the London 2012 Games and the Olympic and
Paralympic Movements are protected by laws in the United Kingdom.
Particular to these games are the London 2012 Olympic and
Paralympic emblems, the London 2012 mascots, the words "London
2012". The www.london2012.com website claims that the London
Organising Committee must carefully manage how the Games' marks
are used and what the London 2012 brand stands for. It states:
"We have a more immediate need and obligation to protect
and maintain the current commercial value of the London 2012 brand.
The hundreds of millions of pounds necessary to organise and stage
the Games is being raised by the London 2012 Organising Committee
(LOCOG) from the private sector. In return for investing in the
Games, we have promised our sponsors and merchandise licensees
exclusive rights to use the London 2012 brand and to associate it
with the Games."
Australia did the same for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. The
Olympic Insignia Protection Act 1987 provides that the Australian
Olympic Committee (AOC) is the national owner of the Olympic rings
symbol, the Olympic motto. The AOC also owns various registered
Olympic designs and a number of torch and flame designs. The Act
also protects the use of the word "Olympic",
"Olympiad" and their plurals and "Olympic
Games" in advertising and promotion. The AOC and the IOC are
also the registered trade mark owners of scores of word and device
marks associated with the Olympics. To use these protected Olympic
expressions, design or marks a licence is required from the AOC or
The result of the restrictions placed on the use of the brand is
that many businesses attempt to associate themselves with the
Olympics to gain the benefit of that association without the
legislative authorisation or licence to do so. Some businesses
engage in ambush marketing where the business seeks to associate
itself with the marketing of a particular event without the
authority from the organisers of the event. Ambush marketing has
become a common part of the corporate sponsorship landscape and the
Olympics are a prime target for marketers and advertisers.
During the time Michael Payne was a key marketing figure in the
IOC he commented that ambush marketing:
"has become an irritating fact of life for sports
organisations that seek to protect the integrity of the sponsorship
programs upon which many of these organisations depend. No
organisation is more directly affected by the trend than Olympic
Games organisers, who are striving to protect the rights of
official Olympic sponsors against ... marketers who seek to
leverage the goodwill and worldwide reputation of the Olympic
Movement at the expense of official sponsors."1
The challenge for marketers is to advertise their products in a
creative way. Whether particular conduct is infringing needs is to
be determined on a case by case basis. The extent to which
particular phrases, and symbols are "sewn up" for use by
official Olympics sponsors is an controversial balance.
Swaab Attorneys was the highest ranking law firm and the
13th best place to work in Australia in the 2010 Business Review
Weekly Best Places to Work Awards. The firm was a finalist in the
2010 BRW Client Choice Awards for client service and was named the
winner in the 2009 Australasian Legal Business Employer of Choice
1Michael Payne, "Ambush Marketing: The
Undeserved Advantage", (1998) 15(4) Psychology and Marketing
323 at 326.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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