If you haven’t already started, the time is ripe to turn your attention to summer fun: golf, the lake, BBQs and brand protection. As the countdown to Rio 2016 is almost over, it’s important to remember that the Olympic and Paralympic brands are zealously protected. On this point, the Rio 2016 Brand Protection Guidelines for Advertisers are available online, and they're a real page-turner.

The Guidelines set out the Rio 2016 Organising Committee’s position with respect to permitted versus prohibited uses of the Olympic and Paralympic brands. Its position in certain respects in quite clear – notably, only Rio 2016 organisers and their official commercial partners can use the Olympic and Paralympic brands for commercial purposes. The rationale? “It is extremely important to ensure the partners the right to associate themselves with the Games and preserve the emotional and commercial value of the brands” [emphasis added].

In terms of protected elements, the Olympic and Paralympic brands include logos, symbols, official expressions, anthems and songs. Further, it is important to consider that Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter states:

Except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games.

Finally, there are also protected elements that relate to the Games (or sporting events more generally) that are exclusive to other parties; for example, official marks adopted by public authorities in Canada pursuant to the Trade-marks Act.

Any advertiser who would like to jump on the Olympic or Paralympic bandwagon (without having to pay the sponsorship fees) should tread very carefully. As noted in the Guidelines:

Ambush marketing is characterized by any intentional or unintentional attempt to create a false, unauthorised commercial association with a brand or event, in this case Rio 2016 and the Olympic and Paralympic Movement. […] This practice makes the public mistakenly associate the Games with some brands that have no relation whatsoever to the event, thus significantly and directly harming the investment made by official partners. The OPC and the IPC are engaged in various actions to prevent and combat ambush marketing.

Be forewarned – while the public will be watching for athletic drama to unfold this summer, the IOC and the IPC (and their official partners) will be watching for any advertising that harms their brands (and, on this point, the Canadian Olympic Committee has its own Brand Use Guidelines). Accordingly, any advertiser that does not carefully consider these risks before wading into this area is probably better off sticking to golf, the lake and BBQs.

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