Official Olympic sponsorships are coveted by companies for the brand exposure and the prestige of being able to say, “Official Sponsor of the 2012 London Olympic Games.” The International Olympic Committee has very strict marketing standards to protect official sponsors, especially against non-sponsors. There are exclusivity clauses given to many brands that have paid millions of dollars to place the 5 color rings next to its logo. Heck, you can get stopped by the brand police if seen eating french fries not from our friends over at the yellow arches. Or you can be turned away from Olympic Park if seen wearing your Pepsi branded t-shirt. If a brand is not an official sponsor, how can they get in on all the Olympics advertising gold? Ambush marketing.
In essence, ambush marketing is the act of selling your product by skirting marketing rules set by an event, in this case the OIC and the London Olympic Games Organizing Committee. Many athletes have been seeing wearing those over-sized Dr. Dre Beats headphones. That has caused a stir since Beats is not an official sponsor of the games. Dr. Dre sent the British Olympic delegation Beat headphones emblazoned with the Union Jack instead of the Beats logo. Lawyers have yet to act on this ambush.
Another example is Nike’s Find Greatness campaign. One ad features athletes from around the world in cities named London, not in England. The narrator states that “greatness should not be reserved for a chosen few” with a stream average people playing sports in cities around world named London. It does not, however, refer to the Olympics in any way, even thought it is inferred.
British bookmaker Paddy Power was ordered to take down their billboards proclaiming them to be an “official sponsor of the largest athletics event in London this year!….ahem London, France that is.”
Is this fair to official sponsors that paid hundreds of millions dollars or just a clever way to advertise? The Nike ad has over 3 million hits on YouTube and Paddy Power is getting more attention due to this tactic then they would otherwise get.