Is Your Business Ready for the Olympics?

Last week I spoke at the ACBN 11th Annual Conference on the 2012 Olympics. My presentation was on marketing around the Olympics and the restrictions on using London 2012 trademarks, designs and protected words.


What struck me during the conference and after speaking to many of the business owners in attendance is how many of them had not considered running any sort of campaign or promotion to align their products or services with this huge event coming to London this Summer. Even attending the conference, I believe for most of them was more of a networking exercise than to find out what they could do around the Games that would benefit their businesses.


Why is that I wondered?


The Olympic authorities have spent millions of pounds marketing the Games as something for all of us. Are the Olympics really for everyone?


If you were one of the many who applied for tickets to attend some of the games but weren’t successful you probably wouldn’t agree.


If you were one of the business owners who’ve tendered for a contract to supply the Olympics and have been unsuccessful you probably wouldn’t agree.


If you attended the ACBN Conference and heard my presentation on the advertising and marketing restrictions, again you probably wouldn’t agree.


One of the sources I referenced during my talk was a report by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) which basically said the advertising and marketing restrictions around the Olympics are unfair for SMEs. “previously acceptable commercial practices can now lead to criminal charges if a powerful organiser doesn’t approve


Do you know that: 2012, Summer, Gold, Medals, Olympics are protected words. You could get in trouble for using them either on their own or combined with other words in the course of trade.


Yes the regulations are that tight!


Saying that, the real targets for the Olympic authorities aren’t the regular Joe and Jane Bloggs Ltd, they’re the big brands who aren’t official sponsors. They’re thought to be the ones with the marketing know-how and financial resources to pull off an ambush marketing campaign effective enough to damage the official sponsors.



Holland fans involved in an ambush marketing stunt for Dutch brewery Bavaria.


Also the regulations are still trying to keep up with the phenomenon that it digital marketing and social media. Twitter was banned in China during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Marketers are going to have a field day on Twitter during London 2012, dubbed to be the “first truly digital Olympics”.


So… Are you thinking of running a campaign or promotion around the Olympics or even the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee or the Euro 2012 Football Championship?


There’s still time if you are, here’s a bit of advice:


  • Have a plan – think about what you want to achieve before and after the event, schedule a few different activities and see them through to the end.
  • Be creative – there’s going to be lots going on summer 2012. What are you going to do that will get you product or service noticed/set apart from the rest?
  • Be aware – do your research and be aware of the restrictions around the use of trademarks, designs and protected words.
  • Don’t Panic – if you receive a threatening letter from the Olympic authorities, you can reach a compromise. They don’t want to stop you from doing business, just unauthorised associations with the Games.
  • Take legal advice – for your own piece of mind, also if you are found to be infringing the regulations, it could be a mitigating factor.

Lastly, enjoy Summer 2012! Your taxes have largely paid for it!


If you’d like more advice about marketing your products or services around the Olympics drop me an email at

Categories : Ambush Marketing, Blog, Olympics, Small Business Marketing, Trademarks

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