You’re Adidas. You just spent $150 million to be an official sponsor of the 2012 Olympics. Then Nike, who is not an official Olympic sponsor, launches its “Make It Count” campaign featuring Olympic athletes. When you go to evaluate your campaigns success, you discover a study that shows Nike is the athletic brand most associated with the games.
You’ve been ambushed.
Ambush marketing is a way for companies to build brand association with an event without becoming an official sponsor. To prevent companies from engaging in these tactics, the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) put together a special task force: the ambush police.
The task force is a team of LOCOG members who closely regulate marketing campaigns in order to protect the exclusivity of official Olympic sponsors. The team will also monitor social media and oversee marketing campaigns at the 2012 Olympic venues. To monitor social media, LOCOG has partnered with Twitter and Foursquare. Twitter has agreed to prevent non-sponsors from buying promoted Twitter ads with Olympic-related tags such as #London2012. LOCOG reached a similar deal with Foursquare to prevent non-sponsors from checking-in at Olympic venues.
Ambush marketing could damage the Olympics’ ability to attract sponsors, who will question whether an official sponsorship is the most effective way to spend their marketing dollars. Nike’s “Make It Count” campaign already proves this point.
LOCOG wants to protect official sponsors, but we hope they don’t crack down too strictly. Overly restrictive policies can evoke public criticism and stifle the Olympic hype. In addition, the creativity that stems from trying to find loop-holes in marketing regulations often results in memorable marketing stunts.
Businesses that plan on creating brand association unofficially need to get inspired but tread carefully. Violations of marketing regulations will result in fines and litigation. The games are still weeks away, but according to media reports, 50 to 100 cases of marketing violations are being examined at any one time by LOCOG. The ambush police do not mess around.