In order to protect the rights of the official sponsors of the Beijing Olympics and the Olympic brand itself, the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) has announced the implementation of a number of measures against ambush marketing.

In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics this summer, multinational brand owners have spared no effort in competing for the consumer dollar by way of high-profile advertisements and sponsorship activities. At the last count, 63 official sponsors had spent millions of dollars for the official right to associate their brands with the Olympics.

However, companies that are not official sponsors of the Beijing Olympics have been using unofficial means to associate their products with the event, without paying for the right to do so.

Some of the usual methods of ambush marketing include sponsoring individual athletes or sports teams taking part in the Olympics. For example, even though adidas is an official sponsor of the games, Nike has signed endorsement deals with Athens Olympics gold medallist hurdler Liu Xiang and other Chinese athletes. In addition, although The Coca-Cola Company is an official sponsor, PepsiCo has launched an online campaign and obtained 160 million votes from Chinese residents in a contest ranking mug shots sent in by fans, with the winning entries being printed on soft drink cans featuring comments of support for Team China.

Consequently, BOCOG has announced the implementation of the following measures in order to counter ambush marketing:

  • From July 11 to September 17 2008 all prominent advertising sites in Beijing (including the airport, railway stations, main streets and areas around the Olympic venues) will be controlled and priority will be given to the Olympic sponsors.
  • From August 1 to August 27 2008 all advertisements featuring participants in the Beijing Olympics (including athletes, coaches and officials) will be suspended. Television stations will also be prohibited from using unofficial sponsors for Olympic-related programmes.
  • Companies will be monitored for possible illegal advertising and unauthorized use of Olympic symbols. Companies that do not follow the rules will be penalised.
  • Individuals will be monitored. For example, if a group of spectators is found to be wearing the same logo on their clothes at an Olympic venue, they will be asked to hide the brand name. Moreover, spectators will not be allowed to bring drinks from outside the events venues and will be able to buy only food and drinks provided by authorized sponsors (eg, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola).

Ambush marketing at the Olympic Games will definitely be a must-watch for all IP practitioners around the world.

This article was first published by World Trademark Report on 25 June 2008