Nike neatly sidesteps Olympics brand sponsorship rules with Paula Radcliffe ad

August 1, 2012

Here’s Nike cocking another snook at those pesky International Olympics Committee and Locog rules on sponsorship:

Had Paula Radcliffe not been injured, Nike – unlike arch-rival Adidas not an official sponsor of the Games – would have been prohibited from running this ad, featuring one of Team GB’s athletes.

Nike hints there may be more ads featuring British athletes if the opportunity arises.

During the games, athletes can only promote official Olympic sponsors, meaning they are banned from endorsing even their own.

Still more surreptitiously, Dr Dre – the rapper and music entrepreneur – has succeeded in skirting the rules with an ambush marketing campaign that persuaded British athlete Laura Robson to endorse his Beats headphones range.

Dr Dre sent Team GB members special versions of the Beats range branded with union flag colours.

Tennis player Laura Robson tweeted about receiving her headphones, although the post was subsequently removed from her Twitter account. Goalkeeper Jack Butland also responded to the gift, tweeting: “Love my GB Beats by Dre.”

For those not in the know, Beats headphones are near universally available at the Aquatics Centre. Swimmers including Michael Phelps use them to block out background noise before races.

IOC guidance published before the Olympics states that athletes are not permitted to promote any brand, product or service within a blog or tweet or otherwise on any social media platforms or on any website. This particular stunt is a smack in the eye for Panasonic, which is an official sponsor.

Nike’s and Dr Dre’s ambush marketing comes shortly after US athletes, including 400m runner Sanya Richards-Ross, roundly condemned Rule 40 of the IOC code of conduct, which forbids athletes from mentioning their personal sponsors on social media during the games.

Last Friday, legal advisers to Locog decided not to take action against a global ad campaign by Nike that featured everyday athletes competing in places around the world named London.

Lastly, ambush marketing, how not to do it. An object lesson from PepsiCo. This in-game ad for Mountain Dew Energy drink seen on various gaming-apps, a video sharing and a social media website, features what appears to be a teenager on a snowboard doing unrecommended things on the Underground. Catchline: “Don’t Dew this at home.” Not entirely surprisingly, the ad – devised by Impact BBDO – has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority, on the grounds that it is completely irresponsible. Just getting into the Olympic spirit, eh, Pepsi?

McCann pips WPP to Olympics trophy

April 28, 2009

Brett Gosper: Dark HorseWhat a dark horse Brett Gosper is. The EMEA president of McCann Erickson successfully kept us in the dark, until a week ago, about a McCann-fronted Interpublic bid for Locog’s prestigious 2012 Olympics advertising account. Now he’s stolen it from right under WPP’s nose.

From the beginning of the pitch, WPP had looked a shoo-in. It was one of a remarkably small circle of contenders that had the power and scale to handle what in effect is a piece of global business.
True, the much smaller Chime beat it in a duel for the initial 1-year marketing communications package. But that was a blip. Chime (though part-owned by WPP) simply didn’t have the resources to win part 2   – the much bigger bit of business spanning the 3 years up to the Games themselves.  And it showed when, despite a competent performance as incumbent, it was one of two to be eliminated from the frame last week, leaving McCann and WPP.
Even so, no one would have put much money on McCann winning. WPP, now the world’s largest marketing services network, is a far stronger organisation than Interpublic – which has been severely mauled over the past few years.
In addition, WPP’s boss, Sir Martin Sorrell has invested a lot of personal energy in winning the account. The fact that he was actually present in Singapore when the British team, featuring David Magliano and Sir Keith Mills, won the bid to hold the Olympics in London gives something of the flavour of his enthusiasm. For WPP, a win would have been a way of juxtaposing one very British success story with another – its own.
Why did it lose? The devil is in the detail. Locog’s is no ordinary ad account. Though worth a notional £10m over 3 years, this £10m is in fact a benchmark figure for which competing agencies had to tender (as did other services, such as the Locog accountants, Deloitte, and the Locog solicitors, Freshfields).
Agencies were invited to provide services in kind – such a media buying, content, creative ads, sponsorship. If Locog ends up spending over £10m, the winning agency will be quids in, because above that amount it will be conventionally rewarded. If, on the other hand, Locog were to underspend, the winning agency will have to underwrite the difference, and that would mean coming up with cash.
It can be readily  seen that this is an expensive but finely judged gamble, and one which may cause collateral damage to the winning network’s normal commercial activities. Though there is glory in getting the business – and a tier 3 sponsorship thrown in – the account could easily turn into a poison chalice.
Sorrell was prepared to take that chance, but was incensed that Locog had spun off the more profitable research part of the business (worth another ‘£10m’) as a separate account (for which, by the way, WPP is not competing).
Failure to strike a deal over this vexed issue was one reason why WPP lost out in the final pitch. In the end, however, it was outbid by McCann, which was prepared to provide more services at a lesser notional price. How it is going to afford this more generous offer is another matter.

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