Page last updated at 06:34 GMT, Monday, 1 March 2010

Canadian lessons on ambush marketing for London 2012

By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News

Coca-Cola is one of the official Olympic sponsors
Official sponsors such as Coca-Cola pay handsomely for the Olympic connection

Now that the razzmatazz of the 2010 Winter Olympics' closing ceremony in Vancouver is over eyes will be turning towards England.

In just two-and-a-half years' time, thousands of athletes and sports fans will descend on the UK as the London 2012 Olympics get under way.

And there has been much for organisers to mull over; from how Vancouver dealt with things like transport bottle necks, to the provision of large public viewing screens.

However they will also be taking a very close look at how the authorities dealt with so-called "ambush marketing".

The IOC on ambush marketing
A planned attempt by a third party to associate itself directly or indirectly with the Olympic Games to gain the recognition and benefits associated with being an Olympic partner
IOC Olympic marks handbook

Ambush marketing is when a firm tries to create unauthorised association between their name or brand and a major sporting event, detracting from the rights of official sponsors of the event.

There is a thin line between clever marketing and breaking increasingly strict Olympic guidelines.

The International Olympic Committee appeared determined to discourage ambush marketing in Vancouver, and the Canadian organisers introduced tough legislation to back up their actions.

'Protecting revenues'

Like the Vancouver organisers, those behind the London event have also seen legislation introduced to help them tackle ambush marketing.

Two Thousand and Twelve
Twenty Twelve

"I think it's a trend that is only going to increase in terms of protection of the Olympics at least," says David Bond, an expert on copyright a law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse.

"I think Vancouver have been more strict then than Beijing, which was itself more strict than any time before."

He adds: "One of the terms of winning the Olympics is putting in place a plan to combat ambush marketing.

"One of things London looked at was what it could do to protect the revenue routes through sponsorship, should it win the games.

"And the UK decided it would take all necessary action to protect sponsors, and would draw up conditions to stop ambush marketing."

Red and white

Royal Bank of Canada was the official games' sponsor in Vancouver.

But rival Scotiabank launched a marketing campaign which games organiser Vanoc felt could have undermined the value of official games sponsorship.

Scotiabank unveiled a photo and story-submitting contest called Show Your Colours that used images of fans in red and white cheering a sporting event.

Olympic ice hockey champion Cassie Campbell at Scotiabank Show Your Colours event in Vancouver
Did this Scotiabank campaign break Olympic marketing guidelines?

Former Olympic ice hockey champion Cassie Campbell was also used in the campaign, which featured her in red and white sports kit, and also used the Maple Leaf.

The firm denied it was trying to associate itself with the Olympics, perhaps safe in the knowledge that it would be difficult to be sued for using the Maple Leaf.

Vanoc had a word with the bank and said its objective was to find a balance "between protecting our sponsors and licensees.... but at the same time, doing it in a manner that allows for community engagement with the games".

'Carefully vetted'

As well as the Olympic rings being protected at trademark and copyright levels, there is also legislation in the UK which protects companies' association with the 2012 games.

It will be interesting to see how ambush marketers can get past these lists of words
David Bond, Field Fisher Waterhouse

The passing of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 created the 'London Olympic Association Right' (LOAR), which gives the games' organisers the power to grant licences to authorised sponsors to use the symbols, words and logos of the event.

But it also prevents any advert or merchandise with the combination of words, marks and symbols which can be judged as creating an unauthorised association with the games.

There are two lists of prohibited expressions, with marketers falling foul if they use any two words in list A, or any word in list A with one or more of the words in list B.

"It will be interesting to see how ambush marketers can get past these lists of words," says Mr Bond.

"Everything will be carefully vetted too. It is going to be even harder for ambush marketing campaigns in 2012."

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