Branding Police at the Olympics

Friday, July 27, 2012


The London Olympics will feature some of the strictest rules yet for protecting the Games’ corporate sponsors. And organizers will have people to monitor and enforce those rules—both on the ground and online. Brooke speaks to The Guardian's Esther Addley about the unprecedented steps being taken to protect the Olympics' corporate sponsors.


Esther Addley

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [4]

Jeff Pappas from Dumbo

Re posted looks like this was removed ? Why?

Very sad . I thought the 5 rings were a symbol of the 5 continents that humans inhabit and the idea of coming together every 4 years to compete in a Peaceful way to highlight sports acheivment and unity.
Just another Corporate Greed and arrogance stance
Just as you cant copyright musical notes.... circles arranged in patterns should not be controlled by $ and Corporate lawyers
What happens if due to the laws of physics and fractals I take a photo of 5 soap bubbles interlinked in a similar manner. I will sell it as ART !
To quote Picasso " minor artists borrow great artists steal "

Aug. 05 2012 12:20 PM
Actual Lawyer from Los Angeles, CA

"Anonymous coward" is right. I actually am a lawyer, and have done some work in this area. First, the term you're looking for that describes this practice that is, for reasons I don't understand, completely absent from your piece, is guerrilla marketing. Simply put, it's where a brand that is not an official sponsor of an event like the Olympics engages in advertising practices that give consumers the false impression that the brand is officially associated with the event. Some of these practices do involve copyright and other intellectual property issues. Others, like showing up just outside of stadiums and giving away tons of free products, coupons etc to fans, do not. Your piece is extremely lazy in the way it throws the word "copyright" out over and over to describe uses that sometimes do, but often do not, involve intellectual property issues (including copyright).

On a much more important note, I absolutely love On the Media, but your coverage of these kinds of issues tends to lean too Copyleft for my taste. You tell one side of the story without even asking why these rules and regulations exist. While some of the rules imposed by groups like the IOC (the anecdote about the inability to pay with cash, if true, is totally absurd), are totally nuts, the brands that do become official sponsors of events like the Olympics spend an absurd amount of money to do so. In order for that exclusive sponsorship to be WORTH something, the event has to be able to police the brands that attempt to get something for nothing by setting ground rules for what brands who do NOT pony up to become official sponsors are allowed to do. Reading those rules as part of your piece out of context can make them sound ridiculous. Explaining the REASONING behind those rules makes it clear that there is a perfectly logical explanation why a brand that is not a sponsor of the Olympics cannot, for example, pepper its advertisements with phrases like "Twenty Twelve Games." Not that complicated.

Again, I absolutely love your show. I tell everyone I know who is even mildly intellectually curious to listen to it. But I found your piece on this (and similar issues over the years) to be somewhat dismissive and flippant.

Aug. 02 2012 08:16 PM
Anonymous coward from New York

In this piece, Ms. Gladstone referred to "copyright cops" and examples of "copyright infringement." I am not a lawyer, but I did not hear one thing that would have constituted copyright infringement. What appears to be at stake is trademark, contract law (imposing restrictions on ticket holders), and bespoke non-copyright legislation created at the request of the Olympic games.

If a professional media outlet doesn't know or doesn't care about the difference between trademark and copyright, how can the average person do so? And the distinction is important to make: nothing you described would have been a copyright infringement, but if you pretend that copyright owners have the same rights as trademark owners, you eat away at the public's right to use copyrighted works.

I would suggest you consult with Rebecca Tushnet at Georgetown Law about the difference between copyright and trademark, and why it is dangerous to confuse the two.

Jul. 30 2012 09:38 AM

I am so annoyed at the IOC/LOGOC that I drew a cartoon to express my displeasure.

I hope you enjoy it.

Jul. 29 2012 12:26 PM

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