From the Winter Olympics to the Commonweath Games: how to avoid the pitfalls of ambush marketing

From the Winter Olympics to the Commonweath Games: how to avoid the pitfalls of ambush marketing

I flicked onto the BBC at some ungodly hour on Sunday to catch a bit of the snowboard slope style event.

One of the competitors was using a board with the 'Burton' logo in large letters on it. For some inexplicable reason, I couldn't concentrate on the rider—who was placing herself in great peril by launching herself off jumps the size of a small Lake District hill—rather, I was hypnotised by the 'B', 'U', 'R', 'T', 'O' and 'N' screaming at me from the bottom of her board.

Well, the letters weren't screaming as such, they were just in a black and white typeface, to be fair. Nothing crazy there. That said, I couldn't take my eyes off them. Perhaps all I ever want to do as a lawyer is read things? (I've been known to read all of the small print off a packet of corn flakes, but I digress somewhat.)

What it did do (to me at least) was show the power of advertising. Now, this is great news for Burton but perhaps more of a challenge for those that organise large international sporting events and who want to maximise the opportunities for any sponsors—to the exclusion of any non-sponsoring businesses.

Which takes us neatly on to 'ambush marketing'.

First and foremost: what a term! 'Ambush' connotes an ageless and explosively violent military tactic. It suggests cunning. It suggests violence. It suggests bloodthirsty hoards of frenzied warriors massing on scrubby hillsides waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting and docile enemy.

So, I am not entirely convinced that it should be married with the word 'marketing'—but there we are.

So putting aside its lofty name, what is it exactly?

Given that we are taking about the Winter Olympics, let's see what the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has to say:

[ambush marketing is] a planned attempt by a third party to associate itself directly or indirectly with the Olympic Games to gain the recognition and benefits associated with being an Olympic partner

This is probably as good a definition as any.

Now, Burton isn't an official sponsor of the Winter Olympics so was it allowed have its name emblazoned on the boards that it manufactures?

It would seem so. The devil is in

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