London 2012 ad rules could “criminalise” non-sponsors

Brands have been warned that they could be “criminalised” for launching London 2012 Olympics related marketing if they are not official sponsors under Government proposals.

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The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) has warned that the new rules, currently out for consultation by the DCMS, could prevent brands that are not official sponsors from reflecting any association to the 2012 Olympics in their advertising.

The London Organising Committee, LOCOG, kicked off an online auction earlier this week allowing official sponsors including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Adidas to bid for official outdoor media space.

The CIM’s chief executive Roderick Wilkes says new legislation could see brands that are not official advertisers missing out on the “greatest show on earth”.

He adds: “The Games and their sponsors need to be protected but there is a grey area about the rights of all other organisations – and individuals – that are not sponsors. In the worst case, those trying to associate business activity to the London events could face a criminal charge; which we find wholly unacceptable.”

The CIM advises that marketers can still use non-specific associations with health, fitness and athleticism that will not infringe on the Olympics Act but warns that there are is still a huge “grey area” when it comes to defining ambush marketing.

Listed words such as “gold” or “silver” can not be used in combination with words such as “London” or “2012” for example, even if the word “Olympics” is omitted.

The CIM says it hopes the Olympic Act will only be enforced when there is “clear intent to ambush which attempts to mislead the customer” in order to prevent businesses being unduly fined.

The 2010 South Africa World Cup also fell foul of ambush marketing. FIFA filed criminal charges against Dutch beer brand Bavaria for an ambush marketing stunt that involved women wearing the brand’s orange colours at a football game as part of an alleged advertising campaign.

The incident led to ITV firing football commentator Robbie Earle for giving tickets to friends and family that were reportedly passed on to Bavaria.

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