The most brazen Olympic branding violations

Aug 08, 2012

A 300-strong task force is prowling the London streets during the Olympics. Their job is not to protect the citizenry, but the Games' sponsors by cracking down on "ambush marketing," a.k.a. retailers that use Olympic branding (the rings, or even just the name) without paying to be an official sponsor. Eleven companies -- including Visa, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Adidas -- have paid a total of $1.4 billion for the right. And organizers mean for it to be exclusive.

In 2007, a year after London was named host of the Games, butcher Dennis Spurr of Weymouth was forced to take down a sign depicting sausages in the shape of the Olympic rings after brand police threatening him with fines of up to $30,000.

A shop in Surbiton purposely misspelled Olympics as 'oimplycs.' Olympics -- as well as '2012,' 'London,' 'gold,' 'silver,' and 'bronze' -- is prohibited for commercial use by non-official sponsors.

To many, the brand restrictions come off as Orwellian. These ring-shaped bagels on display at the House Café in Camberwell south London were forced down in accordance with brand strictures.

A Guess retailer on Regent Street in London used triangles instead of rings in their window display. That's a no-no. The brand police work for the Olympic Delivery Authority, which is an arm of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

What's most egregious about a rioter stealing an Olympic ring? He's marketing for Nike, of course. The artist's graphic shows the connection Londoners feel between the brand restrictions and oppression during last year's riots.

An artist used the classic image of the Beatles walking across Abbey Road to skirt brand regulations.

If an athlete was to bring one of these bags to an event, he or she would likely face disqualification. During the Euro 2012, Danish footballer Nicklas Bendtner lifted his shirt to reveal underpants plugging 'Paddy Power.' At the Olympics, such a move would "most likely" prohibit an athlete from competing, Olympic organizers said.

Despite the controversy for its Euro 2012 ambush marketing, Paddy Power is at it again for the Olympics. Will we see an athlete risk disqualification for a little extra money from an ambush marketing stunt?

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