Ambush Marketing: When Branding Goes too Far

During the 2012 London Olympics there were many cases of what is known as ambush marketing, which is where companies try to profit off the back of being unofficially linked with major events such as the Olympics. Within the marketing industry, this is considered to be one of the major evils as if done correctly a company can benefit immensely without spending as much money as they would if being an official sponsor. Understandably, when a company invests a lot of money in a major event to become a sponsor, they also get very protective of their position and their investment. This is where things can start to become oppressive! This was forecasted by a branding agency Sydney when the Olympic games were held here in 2000.

London Olympics 2012
photo credit: Peter Borcherds

Sorry, You Are Not Coming In!

As corporate brands spend so much money to endorse events, they also increase the demands that they place on the organisers of these events, in order to protect their investment. This can be taken to extremes and an example of this is refusing spectators entry to the event, solely down to what they are wearing.

For example, Coca Cola are a major worldwide sponsor of the Olympic Games, as well as many other events. If you were to attend an event wearing a Pepsi Cola T-Shirt, technically you could get refused entry to the event. Major brands have clauses such as these in the sponsorship contracts that they sign, justifying them with protecting their brand, as well as their investment. But is this taking it too far? Although the publicity gained from enforcing these limitations would most likely give the company the wrong type of media attention, what is the point in demanding these rules if they are not going to be enforced?

Coca-cola trucks
photo credit: Kenny Louie

Going After the Little Guys

One of the ways that they enforced the strict branding rules of the Olympics was to have a force of people monitoring everything that went on during the build up to the games. Restrictions that were placed included things such as not allowing spectators to upload video of the games, making sure nobody, or company, uses logos that are protected by copyright, and even scrutinising what the athletes can and can’t say on their own social media. Is it right that an athlete is not allowed to wake up and post on their Twitter account that they are eating Weetabix for their breakfast if that is what they want to do? There was even a case of a baker being forced to remove bagels from their display window as they looked like the Olympic rings. There are many similar cases all over the UK which even included pubs not being able to advertise that they are showing the games on their televisions.

A Fair Response

Although, it is understandable that companies want to protect their investment when sponsoring major events like the Olympics, there needs to be a line of reason drawn which stops things getting too pedantic. The vast majority of us can appreciate that large companies spend a lot of money in advertising themselves, and sponsoring large events, but when these events happen in areas, the local smaller businesses should be able to advertise their endorsement and excitement about the upcoming event. Unfortunately, it seems that the lawmakers are favouring the large corporations over situations such as this, which means it is usually the smaller people that suffer. Is it too much to ask for you to be able to advertise to your local clients that you are happy about the forthcoming event and invite them to come and share your happiness?

Photo credits: Peter Borcherds, Kenny Louie