Creating Olympic Themed Content? Don’t Mention The Olympics

Everyone knows the first rule of Fight Club, but what is the first rule of the London 2012 Olympic Games? Well, unless your an official sponsor, it turns out it’s the same as Fight Club’s – you don’t talk about the London 2012 Olympic Games. Oops!

You’ve probably heard that the event is starting next week, and for people creating content on a regular basis that’s an exciting prospect. After all, it’s supposed to be a nation unifying event that everyone is excited about (I’d win a gold for generalisation) so it makes sense that  those working in online marketing want to get in on the action and take advantage of the fact there’s a lot of interest surrounding an event. Let’s all go and associate whatever we can with it!

Not so fast. You might have heard over the past couple of months that the organisers of the world’s biggest sports day have been cracking down on miscreants such as bakers and 81 year-old knitters for daring to get a bit excited about the games – full info can be found on the official Capital of England 2012 website, with particular highlights including banning schoolchildren from using Games’ Marks in business studies projects and advising communities to plan ‘spontaneous’ events…provided the name of the event doesn’t imply possession such as ‘Paralympic Party’ or ‘Olympics Fete’. You know, just in case Usain Bolt gets confused and ends up at a village fair in North Yorkshire rather than the O****** Stadium.

It’s understandable the organisers of the games want to protect the interests of their sponsors and protect the validity of the brand, but it’s also undeniable that some of the rules aimed at protecting sponsorship deals verge on the ridiculous. Anyway, comply we must so here are some of the big rules you need to be aware of.

One of the big problems London Organising Committee of the O****** G**** are facing is Ambush Marketing, also known as parasitic marketing, guerrilla marketing or anything else horrible-sounding they can think of to call it. LOCOG define ambush marketing as:

‘…a business’ attempts to attach itself to a major sports event without paying sponsorship fees. As a result, the business gains the benefits of being associated with the goodwill and public excitement around the event for free. This damages the investment of genuine sponsors, and risks the organiser’s ability to fund the event.’

Did you read that properly? That little blog post you’ve put together on how your local butcher is sponsoring a kiddies O******* in the village ‘risks the organiser’s ability to fund the event’. All £11bn of funding could be lost, you monster! Anyway, there are two things wrong with that hypothetical post – you’re promoting the butcher by associating him with the event and you’re sponsoring an event that’s using the O****** trademark.

How do you get around this? The official line from LOCOG is to think of some kind of creative way to get around the trademarks; for example, making allusions to athletics without actually saying O*******, etc. So really, the best way to get your O****** content out there is to disassociate it from the games as much as possible while still kind of maintaining some association. So play up on patriotism, sports clichés, etc…just don’t mention the magic words.

The amount of chopping and changing the average piece of O****** content would require probably means the ends won’t justify the means, unless you’ve got a particularly spectacular piece. If that is the case, consider how much removing the trademarked terms would impact on the content – if you think it can still serve a purpose, great. If not, scrap it.

The LOCOG are also clamping down hard on people using ‘listed expressions’ in order to create an association with the event. They’ve provided this handy list of terms that make up ‘listed expressions’; you can’t use any two words from list A together, and you can’t use any word from list A with one or more from list B in commercial material. This includes not-for-profit events with corporate sponsorship too:

A: Games, Two Thousand and Twelve, 2012, Twenty-Twelve

B: London, medals, sponsors, summer, gold, silver, bronze

Remember the local butcher from earlier? He may be ‘supporting the London Games’ but he’s not paying for the privilege and therefore you can’t use this sentence and create an association with the event, either on blog content or social media. This extends to imagery as well, so any infographics you may have planned that have pictures of the London Eye and an athlete are pretty much a no-no. Don’t even dare to consider using the famous rings or photography from previous events!

It should be noted that you can actually write ‘London Games’, provided it doesn’t create any illusion of direct association between a brand and the games. Editorial and journalistic content is also exempt for the most part, so if you manage to get your butcher in the paper and the journalists use the sacred phrases, you should be okay. Although on your own platforms, such as a blog or newsletter, it’s not allowed. Confused yet?

Oh yeah, did I mention that Olympic, Olympiad, Olympian, Paralympic, Paralympian and Paralympiad are all copyrighted too? LOCOG’s official line is that you can use these words when talking about an athlete, but even then you have to play down the fact that they are an Olympian.

In summary, if you want to create O****** themed content for your clients, be prepared to jump over a lot of hurdles (I’m allowed to say that, right?). Ask yourself if it’s really worth it; you may think that the chances of the LOCOG police kicking down your door and seizing your computer are slim, but these are the same people who, according to Twitter user @johnycassidy, asked children to wear either ADIDAS or non-branded trainers to an event. Probably not worth it then.

  • Written by on 18th July 2012 at 15:34
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