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SBD Global/July 26, 2012/Olympics

Nike Olympic Ad Campaign Sidesteps Claims Of Ambush Marketing

Nike posted a 60-second ad on YouTube Wednesday to mark the start of a new worldwide campaign called "Find Your Greatness," and the ad "takes an idea that would have run afoul of the rules and cheekily turns it on its head," according to David Segal of the N.Y. TIMES. Instead of "showing Olympic athletes in action in London, England, viewers will see unknown athletes in towns and villages called London around the world." Ambush marketing has "been around for decades, and no company has practiced this dark art with more verve and success than Nike." However, the IOC has imposed "ever more stringent rules to keep corporate crashers away from the party." No city has "drafted broader and more robust rules than" London, which "criminalized the most egregious ambush tactics and made lesser offenses punishable with fines of $30,000 or more." News that the "best of the ambushers will apparently not attempt a surreptitious assault is sure to be regarded by the organizers of the London Games as evidence that the legal battlements erected in recent years are solid." But that is not to say that Nike "will be invisible here." The company sponsors the USOC and "a number of American federations," so there will be "plenty of swooshes when the competition begins." There have been "rumors that the company will be a sponsor in 2016 in Brazil and perhaps this does not seem like the right moment to infuriate the IOC" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/25). In London, Mark Sweney reported Nike did not reveal the cost of the campaign, but it is "likely to cost tens of millions of pounds globally over the course" of the Games. A poster campaign is made up of "nine different ads featuring athletes, from basketball and tennis to running and skateboarding, which will run in prominent sites in London including taking over all billboards in Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus and one at Old Street" (GUARDIAN, 7/25).

PADDY PUSHBACK: Also in London, Mark Sweney noted Irish bookmaker Paddy Power is seeking a court order against the organisers of the London Games "in a bid to stop a billboard ad campaign from being taken down." The company is being accused of "breaching strict rules on ambush marketing" of the Games as a brand that is not an official sponsor. Paddy Power instructed London law firm Charles Russell to "seek an order at the High Court to try to stop" LOCOG from removing the ads. The "cheeky ads" proclaim Paddy Power as the "official sponsor of the largest athletics event in London this year! There you go, we said it." The ad then goes on to add that they are actually sponsoring an egg and spoon race that will be held in the town of London in France. None of the Olympic sponsors are betting companies and LOCOG and the IOC have "strict rules on betting being linked to the Games" (GUARDIAN, 7/25). A LOCOG spokesperson said, "We can take a joke, but as you would expect we had to draw the line at the provocative references to LOCOG. We also have a responsibility to ensure that no one thinks betting companies have any sort of official connection to London 2012." In relation to the court order, the spokesperson added: "We have not seen any papers yet and will reserve comment until we do" (MARKETING MAGAZINE, 7/25). MARKETING WEEK's Sebastian Joseph noted that under the 2006 London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act, LOCOG has the "power to prevent unauthorised associations with the sporting event." It also lists words that cannot be used in combination by non-sponsors. The advertisements, which are part of Paddy Power's "We Hear You" campaign, are the "latest in a string of controversial stunts." Last month, it "ambushed the European Championship" when Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner revealed a pair of Paddy Power branded underpants when he scored (MARKETING WEEK, 7/25).  A Paddy Power spokesperson said of LOCOG, "It's a pity they didn't put the same energy in to the ticketing and security arrangements for the Games that they put into protecting their sponsorship revenue streams" (London TELEGRAPH, 7/25).
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