Retailers and brand advertisers hoping to cash in on the 2012 London Olympics without becoming official sponsors are being warned to carefully plan their campaigns or potentially face jail, as a bill to ban ambush marketing was being discussed in parliament this week.
David Stone, an intellectual property lawyer for UK law firm Howrey and an advisor to companies in Australia for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, said directors of companies
that are not official sponsors could face prison or fines if found using certain words in their marketing.
Proposed banned words will include gold, silver, bronze, London, medals, sponsor, summer, games, two thousand and twelve, 2012 and twenty twelve. Any use of two or more terms together would be treated, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, as being likely to create an association with the London Olympics in the public mind and therefore seen as an infringement, said Stone.
“Innocent people will be caught out, so companies need to make sure they get it right at the start. There’s panic around the Bill and a number of companies will do what they can to get around the legislation in order to be associated with the Games without paying for the privilege,” said Stone.
However, he added, there were still ways to get around the ban. “During the Sydney Olympics, airline Qantas was believed by many to be an official sponsor. But they weren’t; instead they featured athletes in their advertising, whom they were sponsoring, with rousing music playing and the slogan ‘The spirit of Australia’. It created enough goodwill.”
The Olympics Bill was being read in parliament this week and is expected to become law in the spring.
The scramble for official sponsors is not expected to kick in until 2009. However, Coca-Cola, which has sponsored every Olympic Games since 1928, has already extended its partnership with the event until after 2020 (The Grocer, August 6, 2005, p57).
The big four multiples are also expected to jostle to become the official supermarket of the games.
Rachel Barnes