The Games are truly up for ambush marketing

Since the success of London’s Olympic bid, I have been saddened that so much post-bid attention has been given to ambush marketing. In “When it pays to pounce” (MW July 7), a rather crass question was raised: “Why should Nike spend £100m when it can ambush free of charge?”

Aside from the fact that Olympic Games sponsorships are unparalleled in their ability to change behaviour, to motivate employees to sell and consumers to buy, the answer is for the good of the Games, for the good of sport and for improving the quality of life in the UK.

It’s a simple and obvious fact that the Olympic Games as we know them today and as London will know them in 2012 cannot exist without sponsorship funding. If we (the sporting community, business, government and the public) allow and condone marketers to ambush this type of event, over time sponsors will go away and the Games as we know them will cease to exist. To ambush is to leech like a para site that sucks benefit out of its host, returning nothing.

However, despite the chattering, ambush is not the huge issue it is painted to be. For every Games since Los Angeles 1984, ambush marketing has become less of a problem. Yes, Nike and a few others did manage to gain some attention but post-Sydney, Nike became an official Olympic sponsor.

The benefits of becoming an official sponsor are tenfold, particularly since the IOC drew up tough means of combating ambushing. Every bid committee these days must guarantee in its bid that it will enact legislation punishing ambushers. As well as protecting outdoor billboard space, another IOC mandate change from years ago is that Olympic sponsors have the guaranteed right of first negotiation to advertise on the Olympic television broadcast. Only when an official sponsor voluntarily gives up this right can a non-Olympic sponsor advertise on the telecast of the Games.

Perhaps more importantly than these effective actions is the growing realisation by smart marketers than ambush efforts look weak and rarely clever. Often they look “me too” and how many marketers aspire to that?

Bob Heussner

Managing director

Octagon Games Marketing

London SW6

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