The London 2012 Olympics is the summer’s biggest branding event. Yet the regulations governing brand association with the Games are more restrictive than you might expect – particularly if you’re not an official sponsor. So before you dive in, share some of the lessons learned by our Alchemists.
There would be no Olympic Games without the vast sums raised from the private sector. That’s why the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) – the British event’s brand guardians – need to protect official sponsors and valuable trademarks to ensure the commercial viability of the Games.
It stands to reason, then, that there is significant protection in place over the use of the Games’ marks – if nothing else to ensure it’s clear to consumers who the key supporters are. And if legal rights are infringed, LOCOG are likely to take swift and harsh action – anything from banning campaigns to seeking financial compensation and initiating costly court proceedings. What’s more, it doesn’t matter where your company is registered as the rules apply internationally.
The Games’ marks are legally protected by a combination of registered trademarks, copyright law, registered community designs, and common law. Special laws have also been passed to give extra protection when the Games are on.
Yet LOCOG are not unreasonable, and Games protection isn’t a money-making racket.
The organisation’s preferred approach is to prevent infringements by offering help and advice, and they’ve published some useful guides to help companies ensure compliance in all marketing communications.
Visit LOCOG’s website for more information on:
Regulations governing references to the Olympics are strict, and fierce penalties await those who breach them. All graphic assets associated with the Games are protected and reserved for official sponsors, like the 2012 logo and the five interlocking rings of the Olympic logo as well as the three agitos of the Paralympic emblem.
But certain words and phrases also share protected status. The use without official permission of the following logos, words or mottos in marketing communications may be considered an infringement:
- London 2012
- London 2012
- Team GB
- Get Set
- Games Maker
- ‘Olympic’ or ‘Olympics’
- ‘Olympiad’ or ‘Olympiads’
- ‘Olympian’ or ‘Olympians’
- ‘Paralympic’ or ‘Paralympics’
- ‘Paralympiad’ or ‘Paralympiads’
- ‘Paralympian’ or ‘Paralympians’
- ‘Citius Altius Fortius’
- ‘Faster Higher Stronger’
- ‘Spirit in Motion’
Guilt by association
That’s not all. Another key aspect of Olympic branding regulations is that marketers cannot make an association with the Games within the context of a promotion unless they are an official sponsor. Defining ‘promotion’ and ‘an association’ are legally problematic, which makes these cases hard to judge. The following are words and phrases that are more likely than others to be considered by LOCOG as ‘making an association’ with the Olympics:
Any two of the words Games, Two Thousand and Twelve, 2012 and Twenty-Twelve
Combining the words above with London, medals, sponsors, summer, gold, silver, bronze
There are also more borderline cases: words and icons that won’t directly create an association with the Games, but which may contribute to an association in the eyes of LOCOG. These include use of the Olympic colours, Olympic-style torches, images of Olympic venues, depiction of Olympic sports (this is pretty broad – almost any sport imagery could be included) and even ‘words associated with Olympism’ such as ‘endeavour’ and ‘friendship’. Really anything considered to be an attempt to leverage the Olympic brand values and major monikers.
Right side of the rules
To help marketers tread a safe path, LOCOG have produced some examples of copyright-friendly adverts, and those which would infringe regulations:
This ‘track shoes’ advert produced by LOCOG shows an advert for running shoes that does not infringe on their rights governing the use of Games branding. This creative would be considered safe because although it touches on themes related to the Olympics, it does not refer to the Games in any way.
Also created by LOCOG, this advert for a fictitious energy company creates a clear association with the Games even without the use of banned expressions. This use of text and images would be considered an infringement of LOCOG’s rights.
The risk of inadvertently making an association with the Olympics is high, particularly if you make reference to the Games specifically. So the safest bet is to avoid any Olympic messaging in your email campaigns. And if you must, at least seek legal advice before sending any campaigns. Because to even hint at an association with this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games could very easily land you in choppy waters.