Catus Astutus Festivus - an Olympics update

The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games presents one of the greatest ever opportunities for brand promotion.  So it was oddly refreshing to witness a non-commercial display on Friday.  As host country however, Brand UK received maximum exposure from a parachuting HM Queen Elizabeth II and James Bond along with a speedboating David Beckham and a crooning Sir Paul McCartney.

Away from the official events, several brands did their best to ensure they were not left out of the party.  After all, and as we're told so frequently by the media, the Games is for everyone [and funded by everyone, or at least everyone who pays tax in Britain - Merpel].  Tip of the hat to all those who brought these anti-ambush marketing stories to the IPKat's attention and special mention to Lee Curtis for compiling the links so neatly.

First out of the starting blocks comes Paddy Power, which is no stranger to ambush marketing after featuring on Danish footballer Nicklas Bendtner's underpants during the European Football Championships in June.  This time around the Irish bookmaker sponsored an Egg and Spoon Race in London, France much to the chagrin of LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games), the body charged with enforcing the Olympic anti-ambush marketing legislation.  

After ordering the removal of Paddy Power's advertisements from billboards, LOCOG eventually decided the odds were not in its favour and decided to "monitor the situation" instead [perhaps it was the threatened counterclaim by Paddy Power to seek a High Court declaration of non-infringement for all current and future advertisements which persuaded LOCOG].

Nike also ran with the idea of using geographically identical place names in its video advertisement.  The "Find your Greatness" [or to everyone else the "we're getting as close as-possible-to-the-Olympics-without-actually-breaking-the-rules"] campaign features normal athletes from places called London around the world.  And it turns out that there are quite a few, though the number of people who will associate the word with anything other than the host city of the Games after watching the video can be counted with one paw.

Also picking up the baton is Oddbins, the British wine and alcohol retailer.  Clearly incensed at the Games' sponsorship rules, its managing director issued a statement so full of vitriol a summary could hardly do it justice:
"...thanks to LOCOG... any business without the tens of millions of pounds required to join the cabal of multinational brand partners for the Games are reduced to the status of beggars on the gilded streets of the Olympic movement. 
We have taken steps to ensure our planned window displays do not flout any of these asinine rules, but we are doing this primarily to highlight the absurdity of the fact that the British people - who are paying for these games - are at the same time being subject to ridiculous rules. Even though our window designs will be within the rules, we would not be surprised if LOCOG goes loco".
Oddbins has offered a discount to anyone wearing Nike trainers with Vauxhall car keys, an RBS MasterCard, an iPhone, a bill from British Gas and a receipt for a Pepsi bought at KFC. And the campaign appears to be working with online sales apparently up by 22% [if the sales are online how can they be sure what trainers the consumer is wearing?].
The classification of non-Olympic sponsor brands as destitute probably goes a little far but this Leodensian Kat would be glad to hear of anyone who can satisfy Oddbins' very strict criteria (and not just to save a few quid on a bottle of vino).
blog2_620On the final stretch we have Brewdog, a Scottish brewer and several times winner of the 'World's Strongest Beer' competition.  With a reputation for unconventional product names and provocative marketing, it does not disappoint with 'Never Mind the Anabolics'.  Marketed as a 6.5% India Pale Ale infused with creatine, coffee, guarana, ginseng, gingo, maca powder, matcha tea and kola nut, Brewdog launched the product by stating on its website:
"It is about time the greatest sporting event on the planet was not sponsored by fast food companies, sugary fizzy drinks producers or monolithic multi-national brewers. A burger, can of fizzy pop and an industrial lager are not the most ideal preparation for the steeple chase or the dressage (for human or horse)".
The IPKat loves an original and highly distinctive trade mark and Brewdog's is certainly up there as a gold medal contender.  But with a clearly political message about the nature of certain sponsors' products and the use of performance-enhancing drugs by athletes, this Kat wonders whether LOCOG might prefer to avoid drawing further publicity to the issue.
Catus Astutus Festivus - an Olympics update Catus Astutus Festivus - an Olympics update Reviewed by Robert Cumming on Monday, July 30, 2012 Rating: 5


  1. There's an fascinating clash between LOCOG's incredibly aggressive protectionist stance and the attitudes of the great Britains who were celebrated in the opening ceremony. Tim Berners-Lee famously didn't patent the world wide web ("This is for everyone"), and Isambard Kingdom Brunel not only didn't patent any of his inventions, he actively campaigned for patents to be abolished.

    Ask any member of the public to categorise LOCOG, Brunel and Berners-Lee into good guys and bad guys, and there's little doubt which way they would decide. Surely and it can't be long before politicians outside the Pirate Party start to capitalise on the public's attitude to IP enforcement?

  2. LOCOG rely on the disturbing Schedule 4 of The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 which prevents people from creating an association between a business, goods or services, and the London 2012 Olympic Games without their authorisation.

    Keep in mind its THEIR determination of what amounts to an 'association'.

    My employer received a threatening letter from LOCOG that had this cracking line:

    "We want the Olympic Games to be remembered for getting the nation behind the Games, not for incidents of unauthorised commercial activity"

    So what did we spend our money on trade mark protection for then? We are surely authorised under the TMA1994 to use the brand for what we registered it for? (see para 6 of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006). According to LOCOG... no...

  3. I was looking at the LOCOG brand guidance and found it extraordinarily tendentious. The idea has got around that any association is per se infringing, but it is clear from the statute that the association has to be essentially a commercial relationship between the defendant and the Games. Reference to the Games is not in itself the suggestion of such an association. I predict that there will be few successful actions.


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