Marketing at the Summer Olympics — Are the Brand Restrictions Too Much?


The world’s finest athletes aren’t the only ones anxiously awaiting tonight’s opening ceremony for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Sponsors have a lot riding on the line as well.

Marketing, advertising and other media professionals across the globe are working furiously to ensure that all details are perfect for the 30th Olympiad. Their goal is a gold medal of a different kind, and they will roll out a myriad of campaigns for their brands that will take place during the Olympic Games — many of which launched in the weeks leading up to today.

For these companies, the Olympics represents a hugely significant investment in time, money and resources. For example, Coca Cola began its Olympics promotion in May 2011. It’s an opportunity that brands are willing to pay heavily for because it offers global exposure, and it must be maximized.

Sponsors are a vital part of the support infrastructure for the games. Over the years, the Olympics has been taking increasing measures to protect its advertisers. In London though, it seems that the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) might be taking things a bit too far.

In preparation for the Olympic torch being carried through Britain’s small villages, towns and cities, LOCOG held an advance party to “clean up” the streets and ensure that any unapproved branding or advertising from unofficial companies wasn’t on the route.

During the games, LOCOG will protect sponsors by providing a 35-day “Brand Exclusion Zone” that will be set up and enforced around all Olympic venues and a surrounding five-mile area. Inside these areas no brands that compete with official sponsors can advertise. But, it’s more than that. Spectators trying to pay with the wrong credit card, for example, will have their plastic currency rejected. And I dare you to take your chance getting in if you’re wearing Nike sneakers, as Adidas is the official athletic wear sponsor of the games.

LOCOG has even been attempting to regulate social media during the games using a 70,000 person volunteer force. Olympic athletes are under strict supervision and are prohibited from uploading pictures or footage, and they also can’t post reports about their own performances.

It may surprise many to know that these restrictions are harsher than those instituted during the 2008 summer games in China. I wonder what will be the outcome of these restrictions in today’s digital age when all attendees basically have their own mobile computer, camera and social media hub in their pocket.

-Lindsey Gehrig


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