The Faux-lympics – Londoners thumbing their nose at the Olympic Brand

Written By:  •  Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Olympic brand is notoriously well-policed so what’s a small business looking to capitalize on the games to do?  With 286 brand-enforcement agents keeping the streets in London safe, it’s making it difficult for the average retailer to make a few extra bucks. Especially since they aren’t permitted to use any slogan, logo or even the date on promotional materials or merchandise. For those interested, here is a sampling of what’s out of bounds (depending on context of course):

The Olympic Symbol (the five interlocking rings)
The Olympic Motto (Citius Altius Fortius’ / ‘Faster Higher Stronger’)
Olympic (s)
Two thousand and twelve
Twenty Twelve
Sponsors ETC……

Or more specifically “Merchandise or promotional items cannot be produced as marketing tools unless you are a sponsor and LOCOG have given authorization.” Offenders can be fined up to $30,000 for offences.

You can’t even SPELL OUT THE YEAR???? C’mon, Seriously!?  Its almost laughable.  While I certainly do not condone someone making and selling counterfeit merchandise based on someone else’s design, I do have to give kudos to those companies thumbing their nose at the rules by poking fun at the LOCOG.  It is after all, sport…it’s supposed to be fun!

Many crafty Londoners have come up with some pretty spectacular marketing and merchandising schemes which have quickly become the talk of the town this week. Retailers like Guess are fighting The Man by flaunting triangular “olympic-like” rings in their storefronts.  One formal wear shop even had the audacity to print “Lodnon 2102 Oimplycs” on their windows! *Gasp* – now the Dyslexics will want an Olympic team!

Clearly some pretty clever (and gloriously sarcastic) creatives have also been churning out a plethora of witty and semi-original merchandise that has been flying off the shelves.

Take this retailer which is using it’s own clever taglines on bags with a similar design to the London 2012 logo. Apparently American tourists are eating them up….always happy to see people have a sense of humor!

Or check out these t.shirts spotted at a street market in London which show The Beatles on Abbey Road carrying the Olympic Rings.  I bet those didn’t last long once the brand police tracked them down!

London’s always colourful Mayor, Boris Johnson seems to think the restrictions are rediculous as well. He told Sky News, “If you want to stick five doughnuts in your window and call them Olympic rings then be my guest. Or if bakers want to make a gigantic Olympic pretzel in the high streets of London to advertise their wares then let them do so.” Too right Boris!

Other big retailers are skirting the rules with their own takes on the Olympic look.  Starter for instance has released an Olympic themed Snap back hat which pokes a bit of fun at the rings with a huge “O” on the front and straight olympic coloured line details across the side of the cap. But the look doesn’t come close enough to be thought dangerous for the brand.

So if you’re heading over to London to partake in the games, just remember not to wear anything with Pepsi on it, and be sure to buy from the local original craftsman and artists who are just trying to make a buck on this whole Olympic thing! The LOCOG need to back off and let people enjoy the games, have a bit of fun with them and then toss them aside for four years. It’s tradition!


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Kristen Meyer

Kristen Meyer is a full-time marketing specialist at a graphic design firm. When she's not saving the world one-brand-at-a-time she can be found at the ballpark cheering on her Blue Jays (at home and on the road) or taking in a rugby match.

  • Matt Marczel

    Hahaha… That’s some pretty amusing material, and I agree those are some highly rediculous restrictions. How about the ‘England 2K12 August Sporting Events’?

  • Peter Findley

    did two people really spell “rediculous” wrong? one of whom’s job i’m sure entails proper spelling to ensure marketing success.

  • Elvis

    Nice, the Brits always find a way to bash America for one thing or the other, so much for sportmanship.

  • More proof that big businesses and non-profits make up the rules as the go along. They can have all the brand-enforcement agents they want. Bottom line is any attempt to stop the use of certain words (London, Games, Summer, Two thousand and twelve, 2012, Twenty Twelve, Medals, Gold, Silver, Bronze and Sponsors from the list above) cannot be held up in court. These are words that are uncopyrightable and cannot be trademarked by themselves.

    You cannot trademark ‘2012’ – for example – and then sue every calendar company for trademark or copyright infringement. I understand the need for the IOC wants to protect their brand at all cost, but you can’t beat down a restaurant that has a street side sign which reads, “Grab lunch before the Games.” There’s no infringement there.

    Corporate a-holes being corporate a-holes. Nothing more, nothing less.