Tel: 01206 808090 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Within the midst of this year’s Olympics, a marketing buzz has started to hum around a little-known term coined by Jerry Welsh for the American Express Company back in the 1980s. Hands up who had heard of Ambush Marketing before the Olympic coverage?
It’s a thorny subject. From one point of view, ANY marketing during an event on the scale of London 2012 is ambush marketing: Making no reference at all to the event, ‘A.N.Other’ marketing will distract from sponsored messages simply by being there and capitalising on the increased public attention to all forms of media – newspapers to television – as people watch and listen. We don’t endure state-sponsored media blackouts here in the UK so clearly policing totally against ambush marketing is an unattainable goal.
For this reason true encroachments and ‘commercial abuses’ are policed and pursued by the charismatically-named, private body, Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games), whose brand guidelines span 24 fascinating pages setting out the identity (and by definition the exclusivity) of the words, symbols and mottoes protected within the brand.
Reports suggest that 270 trained trading standards officers are policing ambush marketing during the games, while Locog has also worked closely with social networking giants Twitter to ensure that its advertising guidelines are supported on digital platforms. There’s no doubt at all that the issue is being taken very seriously.
Ambush marketing impacts on both sponsorship costs and intellectual property rights. When sporting events are privately-funded, even in part, the businesses providing the cash understandably want to see a return on investment to suit the scale of their sponsorship. Loss of exclusivity erodes the value of the sponsorship, which in-turn places the funding of the event at risk when sponsors either can’t be found or fail to cough up the promised dough.
On the other hand, Olympic athletes such as US 100m hurdles competitor Dawn Harper have protested vehemently about the stringent rules, which are preventing them from promoting their own sponsors, without whom they argue there would also be no Olympics. Sponsorship is big business, with athletes relying on the money for equipment, transport and training facilities. Furthermore, ‘rule 40‘ prevents athletes from sharing what they consider to be help and advice about equipment, nutrition and training because they cannot speak about brands.
Several notable attempts have been made to capitalise on the Olympics by companies who are not official sponsors. Arguably they are spoiling it for the athlete sponsors who have supported the games indirectly through their support of the competitors.
My favourite ‘ambush’ so far was Dr. Dre sending specially designed Beats by Dre headphones to athletes. Olympians are using the headphones to block out noise as they psyche themselves to compete. Talk about poetic justice: There’s a smart-mouthed joke in there somewhere about drowning out the (ahem, corporate, ahem) background noise but not wishing to fall foul of the law myself, I’ll leave that unsaid.