Can You Beat The Olympic Brand Police?

Andy Thornley
By Andy Thornley Last edited 144 months ago

Last Updated 23 July 2012

Can You Beat The Olympic Brand Police?

In 2010, the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games…or LOCOG as they are snappily known, published guidance on what symbols and words can and can’t be used by everyone else except sponsors during London 2012.

Backed up by at least two pieces of legislation, the Olympic Symbol (Protection) Act 1995 and the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006, it basically states that you cannot create any association between your organisation and the Games, as "Sponsors must be offered an exclusive opportunity".

Although this guide has its heart in the right place – sponsors contribute huge sums of money which enables the Games to be the spectacle they are – some have accused the rules of being too strict, with many more saying they have been over-zealously policed. Examples of those that have fallen foul of the rules include a small florist shop who created a torch display and a butcher who made ring-shaped sausages.

Some have been more creative in sidestepping the rules however. Bags featuring the London 2012 styled typeface and colour-scheme have begun springing up all over the capital, declaring "I’m renting my flat to a family of fat Americans" and "They're all on steroids". Even the website selling them manages to dodge the all important ‘O’ word.

A formal menswear shop in Surbiton has also been bending the rules, with this widow display, complete with union flags, square ‘rings’ and the phrase Lodnon 2102 Oimplycs [sic]. Take that, Lord Coe! (Image via @tompsk).

Not to be outdone, t-shirt makers have been getting in on the act, with one of the cheekiest showing the Beatles walking across Abbey Road’s zebra crossing each holding one of the rings –- Macca carrying two (no jokes about Scousers and robbing please).

A sign in estate agent window showing olympic rings as hearts

Estate agents Jacksons have also been modifying the rings, this time to demonstrate just how much they love south west London. And who says estate agents don’t have a heart – these guys have got five!

But it’s not just small companies making a mockery of the rules. Waterstones on Oxford Street has previously tweeted about ‘Seb Coe’s big sports day’. Even the Duchess of Cambridge’s mum and dad almost got nabbed for sailing too close to the Olympic wind. And it doesn’t stop there. The world’s most famous search engine has been running back page adverts in the Metro newspaper, advertising their new tablet with jagged shapes in colours closely resembling those used in Olympic branding.

But some of this creative resistance might be futile. In the guidance it has produced, LOCOG explains:

An association with London 2012 can be created by the use of any words, images or marks, or, more likely, a combination of these. For example: athletic images, representations of an Olympic-style torch and flame, the colours of the Olympic rings, words or iconic images which evoke the spirit of the 2012 Games, and other representations relating to the Games may each contribute to the creation of an association with the 2012 Games.

This appears to include anything and everything that the brand police might deem to be associated with the Games, so for some, creativity might not be the get out of jail card that they would have hoped for. Which is a shame as many of the efforts thus far have been extremely entertaining.

Do you have any creative examples of dodging the brand police? Tell us about them below.

This article has been amended to take into account the true intent of Stewart Lee's brilliant satire.