Every two years the International Olympic Committee sells umpteen millions of dollars in sponsorships, and to make sure everyone gets they’re money’s worth, the IOC goes to often absurd lengths to protect them – and the Olympic brand.

So, for instance, the New York Times reported that no one’s too small for the Olympics.

LONDON — When London was awarded the 2012 Summer Games, Dennis Spurr got into the spirit at his butcher shop. He put a sign outside, featuring the five Olympic rings made of sausages.

Eventually, the Olympic marketing police showed up. Remove the sign, Spurr was told. His store in Weymouth, England, where sailing will be held, was not an official sponsor. A law governing the use of Olympic words and images was being violated. He faced a fine up to $30,000 for referring to the Games using kielbasa, blood pudding or any of the more adventurous organ meats.

The sign came down. Then another one went up, featuring five squares made of sausages. The Olympic brand police came back. More legal action was threatened.

“They’re called Olympic rings, not Olympic squares,” Spurr retorted. The Olympic police were not amused. The sausage sign came down again.

According to stuff.co.nz –  Olympic monitors have deployed everything from Wi-Fi police (“LOCOG, the London Olympics organising committee, has banned ‘personal/private wireless access points and 3G hubs’ from Olympic venues”) to chip patrols telling fish and chip stalls they can’t sell chips separately, because “McDonald’s is the official chip maker of the Games. ”

But not everyone has buckled under. The Irish bookmaker Paddy Power successfully fought off an Olympic attempt to get this billboard removed from various locations around London:

The veteran ambusher Nike is also having a good Olympics, spearheaded by this terrific TV spot:

For more on this tug of war, go nuts here.

That’s what the IOC is doing.


John R. Carroll is media analyst for NPR's Here & Now and senior news analyst for WBUR in Boston. He also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town.
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