In 2012 the Olympic Games are coming to London. They bring one of the most strict and heavily enforced set of trademark restrictions, sponsorship and marketing rule sets in the world.

In the UK we must follow The Olympic Symbol etc (Protection) Act of 1995 Failure to do so can be catastrophic for any brand or marketer.  

Not only are we talking about a possible criminal conviction for marketers if their brands misbehave, but a proposed amendment may reverse the usual burden of proof for brands in these criminal cases. 

There are lots of areas in which the IOC will look to police their brand and protect their very large sponsorship deals.

This blog post looks at AdWords because of the dangerous combination of “List A” and “List B”.  Simply put; you must not use two or more words from List A along with one or more words from List B.

The following AdWords samples are dangerous:

The trick is to avoid “Games” along with “2012”. Here are the two lists;

List A: Games, 2012, Two Thousand and Twelve, Twenty-Twelve.

List B: Gold, Silver, Bronze, Medals, Sponsor/s, London, Summer.

Of course, there are a number of points to highlight, the first being that I’m not a lawyer and this post is not legal advice.  

The second is that the IOC is likely, one hopes, to  be interested mainly in those brands  who may appear to be attempting ambush marketing without official sponsorship rather than picking on retailers who just happen to be trying to sell computer games in the summer of 2012. 

The challenge is that ambush marketing is prone to false positives. It may be the case that London 2012 or the IOC notice that quite a few branded t-shirts appear in the crowds for certain events. This could be coincidence but if the brands AdWords also appear to be in breach of the List rules then this may start to cause trouble. 

The Chartered Institute of Marketing has put together a PDF on Marketing and the Olympics and it is worth a read.

In addition to AdWords, I am especially concerned about affiliate marketing during the Olympics. Is it not clear whether brands will be held responsible for what their affiliates say. 

Andrew Girdwood

Published 13 December, 2011 by Andrew Girdwood

Andrew Girdwood is Head of Media Technologies at Signal and a guest blogger for Econsultancy. He can be found on Twitter here.

41 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (3)



Snappy click bait title, but no real substance beyond the link to the CIM PDF. The IOc and partners are not going to go after the AdWords examples given here. Of course they'll apply common sense and target ads trying to piggy back.

over 6 years ago

Andrew Girdwood

Andrew Girdwood, Head of Media Technology at Signal

Hi Matt,

I did say that the IOC would be unlikely to go after companies who just just happened to have an overlap and would look for evidence of other ambush marketing attempts.

A good example is this Honda investigation which it was felt by some that the brand was using "too many" athletes who just happened to be Olympians.

I think you'll find airlines and hotels (for example) will have serious problems if they or their affiliates run AdWords campaigns that directly attempt to sell to the Olympic audience.

I'm quite sure there are readers out there who didn't know about the The Olympic Symbol etc (Protection) Act of 1995 before today. Hopefully this post will help them steer clear of trouble.

over 6 years ago


Jeremy Brown

Lots of ads coming up in the US for 'london 2012 hotel':

over 6 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.