Guerilla marketers ambush the big event with the ‘interlinking rings logo’, the ‘burning stick’ and ‘humans doing sporty things’

There are some strict rules about advertising around the Olympics and alluding to the games, so much so that there is a 27-page report by the New Zealand Olympic Committee outlining the ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s of the 2016 Rio Olympics. We take a look at the rule book and reveal some of the brands here and further afield, who’ve been trying to steal some Olympic thunder. 

New Zealand happens to have a law that protects events that are declared to be “major events” and control over the use of certain emblems and words relating to the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games. According to the NZOC Promotion and Advertising Guidelines Rio 2016 Olympic Games guidelines a breach of the Major Events Management Act 20017 (MEMA) can lead to a fine of up to $150,000.

Of course, the main aim is to prevent ambush marketing, where brands try to jump on the bandwagon and associate themselves with a big event when they aren’t a sponsor and have no right to do so.

And you can see why, according to the International Business Times, the IOC has more than tripled the amount of money it generates from global sponsorship.

Source: IBT

So which brands have been playing with (Olympic) fire?

Air New Zealand apparently landed itself in a bit of hot water for featuring New Zealand Olympians in a promotional video, according to the Herald.

The athletes too were almost deemed ineligible for the Rio games after an altercation between Air New Zealand and the New Zealand Olympic Committee over the Air New Zealand campaign called Play our Great Mates.

The airline doesn’t sponsor the NZOC, but has has a relationship with individual athletes.

The NZOC told the Weekend Herald it was trying to make sure athletes were not affected, but did not explain how the situation was resolved with Air New Zealand. It appeared a waiver was eventually granted as the campaign continues to run.

Gorilla Snot Gel NZ, an appealing sounding hair gel product features a gorilla holding an Olympic-style torch and lecturing the viewer to “Create a style fit for Olympians”.

Professional cleaning service company Spruced has quite bluntly used the Olympic rings and the fern to announce its pride over our Kiwi athletes, and conveniently placed its own logo and taglines beneath the Olympic-themed emblems.

My Tax has its mascot holding what appears to be the Rio Olympic torch, but without any labelling identifying it, wishing the athletes luck (the post has been removed since we published this article). 

Flex Fitness has simply posted an image including the fern and the Olympic rings with a post wishing luck to the New Zealand athletes at the games.

Morgan Taylor created some Rio-inspired nails to draw in a few extra eyeballs.

Overseas a few brands have quite obviously tried to get their names near the athletes. In 1996 Nike, though it wasn’t a sponsor of the Olympic games, gave a pair of $30,000 standout golden shoes to Michael Johnson who later posed with them on the cover of Time, according to Adweek.

Supposedly this move by Nike resulted in the strict guidelines we see today, after it really pissed of Reebook which paid a reported $50 million to become an official sponsor.

And now for some overseas examples:

Ford’s campaign for its 2017 Ford Escape SUV, “We are All Fans,” includes TV and Snapchat ads that don’t use any banned terminology but still allude to the Olympics.

Google has created a game with animated fruits partaking in different Olympic events.

Hell, even Porn Hub is getting in on the fun, dubbing its campaign the ‘Ooohlympics’.

Here are a few of the don’ts laid out in NZOC’s guidelines:

  • No use of any of the below emblems

  • No words that are names of committees involved with the games or the words ‘New Zealand Olympic Team’. See page 5 of the report for a full list.
  • No use of the words ‘Olympic Games’ or ‘Olympic Gold’
  • The expressions “Rio 2016”, “Rio de Janeiro 2016” and any of the words in Column A when used in connection with any words in column B (below)
  • Olympic rights (page 7) can’t be used in any blogs, tweets, social media platforms or websites

In terms of general rules there are no legal restrictions on editorial use of the protected words and images, but there is a legal restriction on advertorials if an advertisement is “presented in the manner of an editorial which has the effect of suggesting that there is a relationship between the subject matter of the advertorial …”

The International Olympic Committee also owns all rights associated with the Olympic rings and the Olympic flat, motto, anthem, the Olympic torch/flame, identifications, designations and emblems. The NZOC, as the NOC for New Zealand, has the exclusive right to exploit and license IOC Rights in New Zealand.

Here is an example of an acceptable advertisement from an advertising partner:

And here is an acceptable advertisement from a non-Olympic partner:

See the full report here.

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