IOC must find ways to protect sponsors from social ambush

Locog and sponsor brands should improve social media monitoring and provide athletes with better training on how to use social platforms during the olympics to protect the rights of sponsors against “ambush” marketing, say branding experts.

Beats by Dr Dre managed to bypass Olympic branding police police with a

A social media boot camp for athletes is one suggested way to address non-sponsor brands gleaning endorsements from Olympic athletes, such as the coverage headphones brand Beats by Dr Dre achieved this week after a successful ambush marketing stunt.

As the first week of the London 2012 Olympics draws to a close the rap-star headphones brand has become one of the most talked about brands around the Olympics bypassing restrictions on multi-billion pounds sponsorship deals during the sporting fortnight.

The brand delivered headphones sporting Union Flag colours to British athletes including tennis player Laura Robson and footballer Jack Butland and has basked in social media and traditional press coverage ever since.

Butland used Twitter to thank the brand for sending him the headphones, posting: “Loving my new GB Beats by Dre #TeamGB #Beats.”

This so-called ‘ambush’ marketing, highlights the challenge of policing restrictions on sponsorship during the Games. How can the organisers of the 2016 Olympics in Rio make it harder for marketers to evade advertising restrictions and respond quicker to social media that flouts regulations.

Jeremy Waite, head of social strategy at TBG Digital, which sells advertising on Facebook and Twitter, says that the Olympic organisers should have a social media “command centre” – a rather grand description of a dedicated team of workers who use software to monitor social media on a bank of screens.

Large-scale sporting events such as the Super Bowl, the final of the American football league, and brands such as Dell, the computer manufacturer, already do this, Waite says.

Olympic organisers and sponsor brands should also be prepared to respond to troublesome tweets or blogs quickly. Within 20 minutes for Twitter, one hour for Facebook and the same day to something posted on YouTube, he adds.

Gerhard Heiberg, the International Olympic Committee’s marketing commission chairman, says that it and its partners take the take the “threat of ambush marketing” very seriously and it has already given athletes guidance on using social media during the Games.

Locog already has ‘Rule 40’ in place, which prevents athletes from using their name, person, sports performance, or picture in any advertising purposes during the olympics, including social media.

The penalties for flouting the rule include fines, removal of accreditation and disqualification from the Games but no athletes are thought to have been forced out of the Games for being in breach of it.

Further training for athletes on how to use Twitter responsibly during the Olympics may also reduce sponsorship headaches, says Daniel Todaro, managing director at Gekko, a marketing agency specialising in technology brands.

Twitter-embarrassments aside, however, the Olympic organisers have made good use of social media so far.

The Team GB Facebook fan page, for example, is also one of the fastest growing Olympic-related pages. ‘Likes’ on the site have increased 14 per cent in the last month and 27 per cent of fans have engaged with the site in that time.

Facebook received 9 per cent of all search traffic ahead of the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday (27 July), more than even the official site for Danny Boyle’s epic opening ceremony. YouTube attracted 6 per cent of all searches.

Every day of the London 2012 Olympics has reportedly seen more tweets posted than during the whole of the Beijing 2008 Games – a sign of how quickly and dramatically the digital landscape has changed in the past four years.

This should also be a lesson to the IOC, the Rio organising committee as well as brands planning to sponsor the 2016 Games on the need to keep apace of emerging digital platforms and how they change the dynamic of its sponsorship deals.



Q&A: Cadbury 2012 boss Norman Brodie

Seb Joseph

Marketing Week speaks to Cadbury’s London 2012 general manager Norman Brodie about how its activity as a Olympic sponsor has given its marketers a legacy of marketing assets to be used across the Cadbury portfolio well beyond 2012.