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Seize the Games’ golden opportunity

Retailers can benefit financially from the London Olympics, but only if they stick to the organisers’ strict codes governing what can and can’t be done.

If you’ve passed through London’s St Pancras International station, jetted off from Heathrow’s Terminal 5 or merely visited John Lewis on Oxford Street recently, the chances are good that you will have noticed The London 2012 Shop - home to assorted merchandise associated with the Olympic Games to be held in London next summer. The Heathrow and St Pancras branches being run by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG).

It is interesting to note that, so strong is the marketing push surrounding the event, the word ‘Olympic’ doesn’t even feature in the logo above the door of the St Pancras International shop, although look closely and you will be able to see the five rings that serve as shorthand for the Games (they’re shoe-horned into the top right-hand corner of the London 2012 symbol).

Selfridges marketing director Sally Scott makes the point succinctly: “I don’t think anybody can ignore the Olympics in London in 2012,” although she declines to say what the department store may do in support of the event, if anything.

In fact, while retailers will be acutely aware of London 2012 and considering how to make the most of the commercial opportunities, unless they are officially affiliated to the event, how to do that from a marketing perspective is somewhat tricky.

How do you go about supporting the Games? And if you choose to do so, what needs to be done to meet the stipulations laid down by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), let alone the LOCOG?

Tom Kelleher, copyright expert and associate at law firm Capital Law, sets out the dos and don’ts clearly: “LOCOG has a number of protected symbols that you must have prior written consent to use and there are civil and criminal remedies available.

“The infringer can be sued for using any of the symbols, made to account for profits gained and made to removesigns, signage etc.” This may not sound overly stentorian, but Kelleher adds that penalties are likely to be enforced and will be “severe”.

“Any businesses considering any marketing campaign should first take legal advice in order to ensure they don’t fall foul [of the law],” says Kelleher. But where does this leave those brands and businesses that have signed on the dotted line in terms of making the most of London 2012?

That depends on the deal that has been struck and varies from retailer to retailer. Next, for instance, is “the official clothing and homeware supplier to the Olympic Games,” says group product director Christos Angelides. This means Next will create a series of uniforms for the British athletes and for officials at the Games, in return for the opportunity to use any of the images associated with the Games that are held in the IOC archive in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Proud to be involved

Angelides says that how much Olympic imagery is used on Next’s clothing in 2012 has yet to be determined, but that the real focus currently is on the “pride in being associated with the UK athletes and London 2012”.

For others, like John Lewis (another sponsor), it’s likely to be a matter of setting aside space for sanctioned Olympic merchandise. A John Lewis spokesman says: “The 2012 shop in Oxford Street has been open since spring 2010 on the fifth floor, and will expand three times between now and the Games to become the largest official London 2012 shop outside of the Olympic Park and the prime destination for official product in central London. The London 2012 shop in Stratford, east London, will open when the new John Lewis [store] opens in September, and will have an event space with unrivalled panoramic views across the Olympic Park.”

As the Olympics’ official sportswear partner, Adidas has also started its marketing campaign, with recent television advertising and 42 adiZones - outdoor gyms - across England. “Our marketing campaign is pretty planned out [for London 2012],” says Nick Craggs, Adidas marketing director, area north, without giving much more away. “We’re also branding all of our communications with the Olympic logo.”

Close to the action

At its most elemental, the real beneficiaries of next year’s Games are likely to be those retailers and brands that have taken space in the forthcoming Westfield Stratford scheme, which opens in September. It will be difficult for the crowds arriving by train to avoid the development, so retailers will be fighting for share of those spectators’ spend.

As things stand, it does look as if all the cards are held by the LOCOG. Drapers talked to several retailers about possible involvement with London 2012 and the overwhelming majority were reticent to outline any plans, “in case the Olympic authorities notice what we’re up to and do something about it”, as one put it.

It’s not surprising retailers are being cautious. During the football World Cup last summer, the event’s organisers asked 36 attractive Dutch women wearing orange mini dresses to leave the stadium, after realising those dresses were, in fact, part of guerrilla marketing by Dutch beer brand Bavaria, which was not an official sponsor but whose logo was emblazoned on the clothes. The campaign, although “against the rules”, did garner publicity around the world.

The LOCOG marketing lockdown is so complete that the non-affiliated winners will be the canny retail marketing executives that can find a legitimate way to promote their business with compelling campaigns - and truly stand out. Be clever, but be careful.

Using London 2012 logos and imagery

According to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), official merchandise for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will drive approximately £1bn worth of sales through the high street.

But stick a set of interlocking rings on a T-shirt, and you could find yourself in trouble.

As a result, LOCOG’s merchandise programme is the only way for high street retailers to legally use the Olympic logos and imagery, says LOCOG.

The organisation adds:

  • The sale of counterfeit merchandise and claiming association with London 2012 or using the London 2012 marks without authorisation is illegal.
  • There are guidelines in place for use of the marks and imagery by retailers. Any retailers interested in clarifying the restrictions surrounding use of the intellectual property should email:
  • It is important for retailers to work closely with the official licensees of London 2012 and LOCOG to maximise sales opportunity, as LOCOG works closely with Trading Standards to deal with any potential issues and will seek to protect sponsor and licensee investment in the Games. While its approach focuses on education rather than litigation, the option of legal action for serious breaches has and will continue to be taken.

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