Earlier this week a report appeared in the press which brought the subject of Olympic branding rights into the public spotlight once again. A London store owner is attempting to avoid falling foul of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 by proudly displaying the words “Lodnon 2102 Oimplycs” above five interlaced squares, one blue, one yellow, one black, one green, and one red.
The 2006 Act enables the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited (LOCOG) to protect the identity and brand of the London Olympics. The 2006 Act is in addition to the Olympic Symbols etc (Protection) Act 1995 (OSPA), which protects the rights of The International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the various trademarks and designs which are either owned or licensed by LOCOG.
The various acts which cover the London Olympics restrict the use of any designs related to the games, words such as Olympic, Olympian, and Paralympic, the mottos of the IOC and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and their symbols – the IOC symbol being five interlaced rings, one blue, one yellow, one black, one green, and one red.
In addition to these restrictions on Olympic symbols and designs there are also limitations on the use of ‘Listed Expressions’ which may suggest an association with the London Olympics. Organisation and individuals in the United Kingdom (UK) must now be careful about using a combination of any two of the words Games, Two Thousand and Twelve, 2012, Twenty-Twelve or any one of these words with one or more words from London, Medals, Sponsors, Summer, Gold, Silver, Bronze. These acts have already seen a butcher in Weymouth, Dorset (home of the Sailing events) asked to remove a sign depicting the IOC symbol in sausages in 2007, an 81 year old grandmother advised that she could not sell a doll dressed in a shirt with GB 2012 on the front at a local fundraiser, and a cafe owner threatened with court action for displaying five overlapping bagels in the cafe window. It remains to be seen how Lodnon 2102 Oimplycs will fare.
Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has shown this week that, armed with a decent lawyer and a fair amount of ingenuity, it is still possible to take on LOCOG and win. Their billboard announcing sponsorship of the “largest athletics event in London this year” – namely an egg and spoon race in London, France, was ordered down by LOCOG but Paddy Power fought and the sign remains on view.
The IOC and LOCOG do take their rights very seriously, something which an increasing number of individuals and businesses in the UK have found out. The explanation behind this is quite simple and it is an economic one.
Both organisations grant exclusive rights to their official partners (11 for the IOC and seven for LOCOG), the seven LOCOG supporters, and the 28 providers and suppliers of LOCOG and generate considerable revenue by doing so. In the case of LOCOG their £2 billion budget is derived solely from private sources, including sponsorship, merchandise, and broadcasting rights.
In return for sponsorship or services these businesses are granted the right to be associated with the London Olympics or the IOC (a good list can be found here via The Guardian).
In addition to the actual revenue from sponsorship (which, for the IOC, is estimated to grow to over $1 billion from its The Olympic Partners (TOP) worldwide sponsorship program in the period 2013-2016) these partners are also providing free advertising for the IOC and the London Olympics. The sponsors, in turn, take every opportunity they can to promote their brand – outside the venues, along the route of the torch relay, across London. Sponsors will go to great lengths to gain as much exposure as possible.
Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s had become the first ever Paralympic Games-only sponsor for the 2012 event. Sainsbury’s announced that the Paralympic Movement vision complemented their “commitment to promote a healthy, active lifestyle across all ages and abilities” and influenced their decision to sponsor the Paralympics alone. However the London Paralympics is being shown on a commercial Free-To-Air television station in the UK, which provides Sainsbury’s with additional advertising opportunities during commercial break, while the London Olympics is shown on a public service broadcaster which does not have commercial breaks.
The exclusivity of these associations is important to the IOC and LOCOG, as it allows greater prices to be asked from sponsors. It has, however, caused some confusion. The football tournament at the London Olympics is due to be played in a variety of venues around the UK, a number of which have existing naming rights deals with companies. And so, for the duration of the Olympics, these venues are being de-branded and the Ricoh Arena will be known as the City of Coventry Stadium and the Sports Direct Arena in Newcastle will once again be referred to by its former name, St James’ Park.
Perhaps the most puzzling result of these rights deals has seen LOCOG issue instructions to catering teams within the Olympic precinct that chips cannot be served on their own and only as part of a “fish and chips” combination. The reason for this is that McDonalds in one of the IOC’s World Olympic Partners and for the duration of the London Olympics they appear to hold a monopoly on the sale of chips.
It is not only venues that are faced with problems. In a modern sporting environment, where sponsorship plays a key element in revenue generation, athletes also aim to exploit their own brand.
Organisations and businesses pay large sums to be associated with the leading sportsmen and women in the world. However, while athletes are competing at the London Olympics they are only allowed to carry the manufacturer’s logo on clothing or equipment – providing it is no more than 60cm2 (and less than 10% of the surface area) for equipment, no more than 20cm2 for clothing, and no more than 6cm2 for headgear or shoes. Athletes’ personal sponsors must not be displayed during the event and any violations of these rules can lead to the offending athlete being disqualified from competing. However many athletes are loyal to their sponsors and have attempted to circumnavigate these restrictions.
Nick Symmonds, an American runner, sold the rights to affix a temporary tattoo to his shoulder for the 2012 athletics season, at previous Olympic Games athletes have been paid to link to websites on their personal blogs (a move quickly addressed by the IOC Social Media, Blogging and Internet Guidelines), and athletes have covered the manufacturer’s logo of their national team clothing during photo shoots when their personal sponsor was a rival manufacturer.
In a time when the Olympic Games has evolved into a vast operation, generating billions of dollars in revenue for the IOC and the host organising committees, a number of athletes have begun to question why they not only receive no prize money from the IOC but are also not allowed to display their sponsors while they are competing. In July, less than a week before the start of the London Olympics, American athlete Sanya Richards-Ross took to Twitter to question both of these issues, suggesting that with “$6 billion exchanging hands during the Olympics” athletes should be paid and should be allowed to have multiple logos on their uniforms.
The “greatest show on earth” is now a very lucrative event and it seems that it is not only athletes who have their eyes on the prize.
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