In a recent press conference abroad, the British Olympic delivery chairman made a public snafu when he told reporters that attendees sporting clothing with non-Olympic sponsored logos would be turned away. For example, he cited that if someone was wearing a Pepsi T-shirt, he would be not be allowed to enter the venue because Coca Cola is one of the official sponsors. Later, the organizing committee clarified that this would not be the case. The rule about clothing only applied to those working the events, not the ticket-holders, who would be allowed to wear whatever clothing they desire.
This brings up the debate about sponsorships of the Olympics, which costs truckloads of money to plan and execute. Organizers of this year’s games, which commence July 27, say it’s their responsibility to protect the rights of the sponsors because of the huge financial investment they make. Toward that end, the committee is including in its overall list of banned items, ”Any objects or clothing bearing political statements or overt commercial identification intended for ‘ambush marketing.’”
I have never heard the term ambush marketing, but according to Wikipedia, it’s a marketing strategy where a company will associate or capitalize on an event without paying for sponsorship of that event. It was first seen in relation to the Olympics at the Atlanta Games in 1996, when spectators in the crowd were handed Nike paper flags to wave, infringing Reebok sponsorship.
The cost of this year’s Olympic Games is estimated at over $14.8 billion. This does not include other public costs, such as road, rail, or airport infrastructure, or private costs, such as hotel upgrades or other business investments. It’s an expensive event and while many eschew the increasing reliance of the games on corporate sponsorships and the sale of the Olympic brand, the math indicates that given the scope and breadth of this biennial event, there doesn’t seem to be any other comparable revenue source.