On the lookout for ambush marketing at Sochi

After the marketing controversies that came up during the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver (remember Lululemon getting in hot water for its seemingly Olympics-inspired line of clothes?) and the outcry in London around 2012′s Olympic “brand police,” there’s been a lot of scrutiny around ambush marketing at the Sochi Olympics. Marketing gathered a few examples […]

After the marketing controversies that came up during the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver (remember Lululemon getting in hot water for its seemingly Olympics-inspired line of clothes?) and the outcry in London around 2012′s Olympic “brand police,” there’s been a lot of scrutiny around ambush marketing at the Sochi Olympics.

Marketing gathered a few examples of what’s catching the IOC’s attention in terms of non-official branding around the Games.

• This recent commercial for Subway—not an official sponsor of the Games—features all sorts of images linked to winter sports like figure skating and snowboarding. It also features U.S. speed skater Apolo Ohno, who previously broke the record for most medals won by a U.S. Winter Olympian.

• Clothing brand American Apparel launched a clothing and merchandise line in December in protest of Russia’s anti-gay laws. The line features text from Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which includes the statement “Sport does not discriminate on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise.”

The Principle 6 website states “Wearing the Principle 6 merchandise will help uphold the Olympic principle of inclusion and underscore that Russia’s anti-LGBT discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic movement.” Proceeds from the clothing goes to Russian LGBT advocacy groups.

• Even before the Sochi Games started, Zippo was reprimanded by the IOC after the brand made the most during the Olympic torch relay. When the torch was blown out by wind in October, a nearby plainclothes police officer re-lit it using a Zippo lighter. The company published a photo of the incident on social media with the hashtag #ZippoSavesOlympics, but the IOC was not impressed that it had shown the logo without permission and Zippo quickly pulled down the photo.

• On the ground in Sochi, Starbucks cups have been spotted around the Olympic grounds after NBC installed a shop inside an NBC facility. Non-sponsors aren’t allowed to show their brands or have their products at Games facilities. NBC said it kept within the rules since the shop was within its own facility and wasn’t open to the public.

There’s a whole lot of grey in the area when it comes to ambush marketing. Official partners and sponsors have a legit reason to frown upon it. While they pay millions to be officially linked to the Games, ambush marketers ride the wave of consumers’ patriotism and excitement to get their brand in front of fans. And organizing committees argue that ambush marketing takes away from the value of sponsorships—one of the most important revenue streams that buoy amateur sport and the Games themselves.

But while many marketers don’t like being affiliated with the term “ambush marketing,” they do feel it is a way to make the most of the groundswell of patriotism and enthusiasm around the Olympics.

Brands Articles

Inside The Brick’s branding rethink

Retailer replaces "Nobody Beats The Brick" tagline with "Saving You More"

Kraft Dinner eliminating synthetic colours

Kraft brand in Canada to eliminate synthetic colours by the end of 2016

DavidsTea launches beauty line

Tea-infused beauty products available across Canada and the U.S

Cirque du Soleil sells majority stake to U.S. equity firm

Founder Guy Laliberte will continue to provide strategic and creative input

Clif Bar CEO on how intuition can trump focus groups

And, what Canadians are looking for in healthy foods today

Telus delivers custom pizzas to Game of Thrones fans

The brand's using the popular HBO show to promote its cable service, Telus Optik

Blacks embarks on a journey fueled by life’s special moments

Retailer targets snap-happy moms in new advertising campaign from Cossette

On The Move: New hires at RBC, Match and North Strategic

A weekly recap of who's headed where in Canadian marketing and communications

Managing Digital: Mondelez Canada’s Janine Keogh

Marketing VP says the key to digital is to remain curious and experiment