UK Government to Ease 2012 Olympics Ad Rules?

27 September 2005

In an apparent concession to vigorous lobbying by the UK advertising industry, the Blair administration appears ready to relax the draconian rules restricting 'unauthorised' Olympics-associated advertising and promotions when the nation hosts the summer Games in 2012.

The International Olympic Committee-inspired draft legislation, scheduled to go before parliament next month, is intended to protect the status of the Olympics and the interests of official sponsors - such as Coca-Cola, Visa, McDonald's and General Electric - by barring other advertisers from exploiting the games.

This has given rise to fears that advertisers unable to afford entry to the Olympic five ring circus - at prices upward of $65 million (€54m; £37m) - will be frozen out of participation in the big bucks bonanza.

This view is shared by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, representing UK ad agencies. As IPA legal director Marina Palomba puts it: "The games have been depicted as being of benefit for the whole of the UK, particularly Londoners.

Host cities are legally required by the IOC to ban 'ambush marketing' - advertisers trying to cash in on the Olympics without becoming an official sponsor.

The IPA's lobbying is thought to have persuaded the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to amend parts of the proposed legislation. However, the changes fall well short of the IPA's demands. It has asked for the removal of an "arbitrary" list of forbidden terms, also a reversal of the bill's automatic presumption of guilt .

"It's still going to be strict regulation," opines the IPA's Palomba. "There will be very limited opportunities for marketers to associate themselves with the games at all. It will be very tough."

Word is that the bill will be amended to incorporate a defence for unauthorised advertisers who flout the IOC's plutocracy. As the legislation now stands, this is punishable by a £20,000 fine, but the government has apparently conceded this would be defensible if the advertising claims can be proved to be a "statement of fact".

In best Whitehall style, however, the DCMS refuses to confirm this concession. "If the government does table amendments to the bill, the detail will be revealed when the bill returns to the House of Commons," it loftily pronounces.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff