China Declares War on Olympics 'Ambush' Marketing

05 June 2008

BEIJING: BOCOG, the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, on Wednesday declared war on so-called 'ambush marketing' – the practice by non-sponsors of cashing-in on the Games via guerrilla tactics. The move is intended to protect the brand investments of over sixty 'official' partners.

BOCOG said it will ban coordinated groups of spectators from wearing uniforms or branded clothing at Games venues this August. But it's a two-edged sword: the prohibition applies equally to sponsors and non-sponsors alike.

Explains BOCOG's deputy-chief of marketing Chen Feng: "The basic idea is to create a 'clean sports stadium,' which means it is not commercialized."

Attendees won't even be allowed to bring drinks into Games venues, giving thirst-slaking exclusivity to mainstream sponsor Coca-Cola.

During the period July 11-September 17, billboards in prominent locations will be controlled to ensure that official sponsors receive priority, while athletes and coaches are prohibited from deals to market their images to commercial third parties without prior approval from Olympics officials. 

Sabrina Cheung, director of corporate communications for mainstream sponsor Adidas declares herself "confident about BOCOG's protection against ambush marketing".

Her confidence appears to be misplaced, however, given that Adidas rivals such as Nike and Li Ning have swamped TV airtime and billboards with promotions featuring Olympic athletes and themes.

But Cheung still insists that "there is no question that Adidas is the official sportswear partner for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games".

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff