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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 August 2005, 06:58 GMT 07:58 UK
The 2012 marketing minefield
By Andrew Fraser

Coca Cola celebrate their extended sponsorship deal of the Olympics
Only a select few companies can become Olympic sponsors
London's stunning victory in the vote to choose the host city for the 2012 Olympics was hailed as a massive boost for the UK economy.

But any company dreaming of a 2012 gold rush is going to have to tread very carefully indeed.

The London 2012 website has already posted a warning listing a string of Olympic-related words and images that are off limits to all but official sponsors.

And advertisers' representatives have criticised the new Olympics bill because they believe it will make it almost impossible for most companies to even acknowledge that the Games are happening without getting into trouble.

Existing legislation already prohibits the use of distinctive "marks" like the Olympic rings.

But the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising claims the new bill is so extreme that it could technically lead to pubs being prosecuted for using chalkboards to flag up coverage of the Games.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport insists that will not be the case, and London's organising team says it will unveil a range of ways in which businesses can get involved in the build-up to the Games.

But they make no bones about the need to fulfil the International Olympic Committee's host city contract, which demands strict measures to prevent ambush marketing.

They will have to come and climb up and take the sticker off
Felix Agyeman of the Olympics Hair Salon in Newham
The Olympics, after all, is big business, with 790m of the IOC's 2.25bn marketing revenue from the last four years coming from corporate sponsorship.

Its Olympic Partner Programme (TOP), which gives multinational companies like Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Visa exclusive worldwide marketing rights, is the most lucrative.

The London organising committee can also generate revenue by negotiating its own deals with companies in the UK, and it is estimated that 40% (580m) of its operating budget will come from sponsorship.

Ambush marketing is therefore seen as the Olympic movement's big enemy, because companies will only pay top dollar if they know their rivals will not be able to get in on the act.

At the 1996 Atlanta Games, Nike carried out a classic ambush on sportswear rival and official sponsor Adidas by buying up a vast number of billboards around Olympic sites.

That window of opportunity has since been closed, and London has solved any potential problems by securing first option on almost all the billboard space around the city for the key time around the Games.

Words 'Olympic', 'Olympiad' and 'Olympian'
Olympic rings, Team GB and British Olympic Association logo
Words 'London 2012', London's bid logo and derivatives of
The 2012 Games logo and mascots (not designed yet)
Olympic motto Citius, Altius, Fortius/Faster, Higher, Stronger
The British Paralympic Association and team logos
Other banned words include games, medals, gold, silver, bronze, 2012, sponsor, summer
Ticket touting and sale of unofficial merchandise will be illegal
IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies told BBC Sport that legal protection was essential to maintain the value of the Olympic brand, adding that sponsorship agreements had helped Athens make a profit from its operating budget last year.

"It is absolutely normal that there should be rules in place to protect sponsors and partners who sponsor the Olympic movement," she said.

The IPA, however, believes smaller companies should be given more leeway when it comes to Olympic matters.

Felix Agyeman set up the Olympics Hair Salon in the borough of Newham, which will be at the heart of the action in 2012, shortly before London won hosting rights.

Like several other companies contacted by BBC Sport, he did not know that he was technically contravening the 1995 Olympic Symbol Protection Act.

"It is not fair. They will have to come and climb up and take the sticker off," he said.

"I live in Newham, I backed the bid and I'm actually promoting the Olympics. I don't think the law should affect my business.

"During the bid they came and handed out flags and pens to everyone, and I don't see why they did that if they didn't want anyone to get involved.

"If there is going to be a law, then I think the law's being selfish. I will give the law my opinion and, if the law proves me wrong then it proves me wrong.

"My plans are already done and the Olympics is not going to affect my business. If I want to make use of it to make my life better and they say no, then what is the point of having the Olympics?"


Clickable guide to London's plans for 2012 Clickable venues guide
Interactive guide to London's plans

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