The race for 'advertising' gold

Chief creative officer at George Patterson Y&R, Ben Coulson, chats with Clare Kermond about the official, and unofficial, sponsors of the London Olympics.

PT4M56S 620 349

As more examples of ambush marketing around the London Olympics emerged this week, organiser's attempts to stamp out the practice may have backfired, provoking public claims of heavy-handedness on the part of officials, and commercialisation by some large corporations.

Sportswear giant Nike raised a few eyebrows in the marketing community with the release of an ad which appears to cleverly bend the strict rules around Olympic advertising.

The beautifully shot, emotive ad shows people from all walks of life pursuing their ordinary sporting dreams in towns around the world, each of which just happen to be named London. The ad has the tag line, "greatness is not in one special place or one special person, greatness is wherever someone is trying to find it."

The Nike ad makes no reference to the Olympics or the Games, and shows no images of Olympic events or athletes, all banned under the strict new laws designed to protect official Olympic advertisers who have paid up to $100 million for that privilege.

While Nike has so far not fallen foul of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), other advertisers have not escaped their attention. Bookmaker Paddy Power has launched a legal appeal against LOCOG's order that its cheeky ads for "the greatest sports event in London, France" be taken down. And London traders are angry over a crackdown on dozens of small businesses found to have broken the rules.

LOCOG's team of 'brand police' have forced a London business to paint over the O in its name - Olympic Cafe - a butcher to take down a window display which included sausages in the shape of the Olympic rings and a florist to take down an Olympic-themed display.

Under the laws bought in for the London Games, serious breaches of the brand rules are a criminal offence punishable with fines of up to $30,000.

Local traders are not the only ones criticising the commercialism of the London games, with a group of artists calling themselves Brandalism posting their work over dozens of existing billboards in protest at the amount of advertising around the games.

The protest group said the strict enforcement of branding regulations for the 2012 Olympics had been a strong part of provoking their reaction and have promised more action.