SBD/Issue 93/Olympics

USOC Scolds Companies For Alleged Ambush Marketing Efforts

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The USOC today released a statement admonishing companies for alleged ambush marketing campaigns ahead of the Vancouver Games. In the statement, the USOC said, “Ambush marketing is unfair and runs contrary to the Olympic spirit because it allows the ambush marketer to benefit from an association with the Olympic marks without providing any financial support to America’s athletes and the global Olympic Movement. These companies damage official Olympic sponsors and undermine the USOC’s financial means to ensure that America’s athletes are given the best chance to perform to their best potential on the field of play.” Over the past two weeks, the USOC has reached out to Subway and Verizon Wireless regarding campaigns it considers to be ambush marketing. Subway is running a commercial that features Gold Medalist Michael Phelps swimming his way across land toward Vancouver, “where the action is this winter.” That commercial has upset TOP sponsor McDonald's, which has ownership of the category. Similarly, Verizon is airing a commercial that shows a speedskater in red being pulled past his competition by the power of a phone on Verizon's 3G network. That commercial has upset AT&T, which is the official telecommunications partner of the USOC. Both AT&T and McDonald's have voiced their frustrations about the commercials to the USOC, which is responsible for policing ambush marketing in the U.S. The USOC has reached out to both Verizon and Subway and asked them to change their commercials. USOC CMO Lisa Baird said, “The Olympics are all about fair play. The campaigns that infringe on that are about the opposite. Everyone in the Olympic movement feels strongly about this.”

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IOC ALSO UPSET: The IOC has been equally vocal about the alleged ambush marketing. Timo Lumme, Managing Director of IOC Television & Marketing Services, said, “What isn't right is... any concerted attempt to confuse the public and falsely create an association in this case with the Olympics. You have to question the values of any such company. It's a free-loader attempt.” Verizon Wireless, Subway, AT&T and McDonald's did not respond to requests for comment. In the statement, new USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said, “It is incredibly disappointing to see American companies taking advantage of the spirit of the Olympic Winter Games for their own profit, and at the expense of America’s Olympic athletes. Olympism is based upon a spirit of fair play, and ambush marketing clearly violates that spirit. The USOC extends our sincere gratitude to all our official Olympic sponsors and suppliers. In the U.S., the USOC would be unable to support America’s athletes and send the best prepared U.S. team to the Olympic Games every two years. It is the financial generosity of these companies that enable U.S. Olympians to reach for their dreams, and in turn, inspire all Americans.” Added Gerhard Heiberg, Executive Board Member of the IOC and Chair of the IOC Marketing Commission, “Ultimately, companies which try to create the false impression that they are an official partner of the Olympic Games, or create a false association with the Olympic Games, are cheating Olympic athletes, Olympic Games’ organisers and Olympic fans. It is important that the public is made aware of these organizations and how they are depriving the Olympic Games and sport development around the world of essential support.”

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