Britain Flooded With ‘Brand Police’ To Protect Sponsors

Britain flooded with ‘brand police’ to protect sponsors (Independent, July 16, 2012):

Hundreds of uniformed Olympics officers will begin touring the country today enforcing sponsors’ multimillion-pound marketing deals, in a highly organised mission that contrasts with the scramble to find enough staff to secure Olympic sites.

Almost 300 enforcement officers will be seen across the country checking firms to ensure they are not staging “ambush marketing” or illegally associating themselves with the Games at the expense of official sponsors such as Adidas, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and BP. The clampdown goes on while 3,500 soldiers on leave are brought in to bail out the security firm G4S which admitted it could not supply the numbers of security staff it had promised.

Yesterday, the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, refused to rule out that even more soldiers may be called upon to help with security, but dismissed the issue as merely a “hitch”. However, as well as the regular Army, the Olympic “brand army” will start its work with a vengeance today.

Wearing purple caps and tops, the experts in trading and advertising working for the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) are heading the biggest brand protection operation staged in the UK. Under legislation specially introduced for the London Games, they have the right to enter shops and offices and bring court action with fines of up to £20,000.

Olympics organisers have warned businesses that during London 2012 their advertising should not include a list of banned words, including “gold”, “silver” and “bronze”, “summer”, “sponsors” and “London”.

Publicans have been advised that blackboards advertising live TV coverage must not refer to beer brands or brewers without an Olympics deal, while caterers and restaurateurs have been told not to advertise dishes that could be construed as having an association with the event.

At the 40 Olympics venues, 800 retailers have been banned from serving chips to avoid infringing fast-food rights secured by McDonald’s.

Marina Palomba, for the McCann Worldgroup agency in London, described the rules as “the most draconian law in advance of an Olympic Games ever”. The ODA and Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) say the rules are necessary to protect brands.

“These rights are acquired by companies who invest millions of pounds to help support the staging of the Games,” Locog said. “People who seek the same benefits for free – by engaging in ambush marketing or producing counterfeit goods – are effectively depriving the Games of revenue.”

Some £1.4bn of the Games’ £11.4bn budget comes from private sector sponsors. The International Olympic Committee’s 11 global partners, including Coca-Cola, Visa and Proctor & Gamble, are contributing £700m while £700m comes from London 2012 partners, including Adidas, BT, EDF, and Lloyds TSB.

The scale of the brand enforcement squad is nonetheless likely to intensify criticism that the Olympics has become too corporate. Paul Jordan, an expert in brand protection at Bristows solicitors who advises firms on the rules, said they were almost certainly tougher than at previous Olympics. “No other brands would have people walking the streets being their eyes and ears, protecting their interests,” he said.

A spokesman for the Olympic Delivery Authority, whose team of 286 enforcement officers have been seconded from 30 local councils, said it had a duty to ensure businesses were meeting the rules.

“We are using experienced local authority staff who currently enforce street trading and advertising legislation. They have all been fully trained,” the spokesman said.

“Deliberate ambush offences will be dealt with using the full enforcement powers conferred on officers.”

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