The attempt of a Dutch brewery to grab the spotlight at the FIFA World Cup by dressing a group of young women in its promotional outfits must have sent shivers down the spine of the IOC, and one can see why. The financial success of sporting mega events depends on the willingness of corporations to pay huge sums for exclusive rights to market their products, and if the organisers can’t guarantee their exclusivity then the reason for spending such sums no longer exists.
The problem is that - particularly with the explosion of social networking and digital media - it's becoming increasingly harder to police the marketing process. Not only are the venues themselves vulnerable, but the immediate environment of a mega event also poses potential problems. In 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics, Nike bought up billboards in the vicinity of the games venues and advertised its products, to the chagrin of the official sponsor of sports shoes, Reebok; so with this upping of the ante, it quickly became clear that the net of regulation had to become larger and larger. But where do you draw the line? The numerous attempts at product ambush at the Olympic Games have meant that the organisers have had to become more and more feverish in their attempts to safeguard their sponsors, and are frequently made to look ridiculous by their efforts to combat anything even remotely contentious. Each nation which hosts the Games passes legislation to protect the Olympics brand. The London 2012 Olympics for example, are protected by the Olympic Symbol etc (Protection Act) 1995
However, the point of successful ambush marketing is that it finds loopholes in legislation to circumvent the spirit of the law. This is why LOCOG’s brand protection document is such a detailed one.
There are two books in the collection which deal specifically with ambush marketing and its game theory. Fascinating stuff, but it’s a matter of life and death for the Olympics organisers, and their difficulties can only get worse (it seems to me).
Scaria, Arul George. Ambush marketing : game within a game
New Delhi; Oxford : Oxford University Press, c2008.
London reference collections shelfmark: YK.2009.a.14775
DS shelfmark: m08/.33254
Skildum-Reid, Kim. The ambush marketing toolkit
Sydney ;London: McGraw-Hill Australia, 2007.