The comments come amid criticisms from some legal experts that the sponsorship rules around the London 2012 Games are too strict, as organisers crack down on Olympic-themed promotions from businesses not sponsoring the event.
Speaking at the Havas Sports and Entertainment House yesterday (9 August), Sally Hancock, director of Olympics marketing and group sponsorships, said that it was time for a “different dialogue” on how sponsorship rights were enforced around the Games because they were “oversensitive.”
She adds: “I feel [angry] on some occasions over the last few months where there have been reports that the sponsors have been responsible for the branding laws. I look at the supposed activity around ambush marketing and instances where some bloke in a pub in Falmouth has been banned because of pressure from sponsors.
“I’m sorry but we would love communities to embrace it and as long as it is done appropriately I think we need to rethink the rules about that. I think its time for a better and more pragmatic approach to it.”
Hancock said that while she understood the rules were there to protect sponsors, they were were having a detrimental effect on the way consumers perceived them as corporate businesses.
The IOC’s sponsorship rules are enforced by local organising committees such as Locog, which also develop their own rules to protect their partners.
She says: “I know the [IOC rules] think they are serving you but actually all they are doing is reflecting badly on us. I think there is a dialogue that needs to be had to find a better balance and a more pragmatic solution to this because as sponsors we can bring an awful lot of marketing clout and reach to the public. There’s no way Locog could have done that on its own and I think its time for a debate.”
The call for change was echoed by fellow sponsor Visa’s executive vice president of partnership marketing Colin Grannell, who said: “Going forward the next 8 years we may well find some changes and we’ll wait and see what they are.”
Meanwhile, P&G’s Olympics project director Nathan Homer, called on the IOC to come to terms with how it manages social media for future Games, adding that it has been a major challenge for the FMCG business.
He adds: “Social media isn’t that controllable and is definitely an area we need to work with the IOC on going forward. It’s causing us and broadcasters a significant issue.
“That challenge of the way social media will change the way the Games are marketed is probably the biggest one that we have got to get our heads around and it’s a significant challenge for the IOC.”
The observations come in the same week that the IOC said that it will not budge on its sponsorship rules, after several athletes questioned why they could not endorse their individual commercial backers, on whom they rely on funding, on social networks.