The Olympics are in a league of their own, and while the London 2012 rules may be rigid, they’re necessary to maintain the value of Olympic sponsorships. The rules, tougher than ever, reserve the use of certain Olympic language and imagery for official sponsors. Those sponsors, including Visa, McDonalds and GE, paid a lot of money for the exclusive privilege; therefore not letting any smaller businesses benefit from it.
In fact a so-called ‘brand army’ of inspectors is roaming the United Kingdom, searching for businesses or non-sponsors that are breaking the rules. Infringement, by using combinations of certain words, includes: ‘Games,’ ‘2012’, ‘gold,’ ‘silver,’ ‘bronze’ and ‘London.’ Fines of up to £20,000 can be imposed and enforcement officers can get a warrant to enter private property where an offense is occurring and remove or destroy the infringing article.
Olympic athletes also must adhere to social media and blogging guidelines set by LOCOG that bar them from tweeting or blogging about a non-Olympic sponsor during the games. See the rest of the rules here.
Mary O’Connor, VP of Olympic Marketing & Global Platforms at TMA, discusses the Olympic’s rules & restrictions:
How do this year’s sponsorship rules compare to past games?
O’Connor: Although sponsorship rules have been in place at previous Olympics and regularly are enforced at international sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup, the London restrictions are the most organized and well thought out that I’ve seen.
How will the International Olympic Committee watch for rule violations during the games?
O’Connor: Enforcement is tricky where social media is concerned. Social and online are the hardest to police, so they’re the most complicated. Moderating is tough. The U.S. Olympic Committee conducted a workshop with agents representing the top 100 U.S. Olympic athletes to help them understand these rules. Per the Olympic charter, athletes also cannot endorse a brand that’s not an Olympic partner during the Olympic competition window.
Explain the importance of protecting the athletes and protecting sponsors’ rights to those athletes exclusively.
O’Connor: The five rings are still the most valuable brand in sports, hand s down. It’s the sponsors that make the games possible. Protecting those sponsors and protecting their ability to exclusively use the rights and terminology is really important. If the protection went away, the value of the partnerships would be significantly diminished. Every partner, if they want to see the value, they link to athletes, because that’s the story and that’s how you make an emotional connection to your brand .
[Hat tip: American Marketing Association]