Branding and Sponsors at Olympics


When is a sponsorship worth the expense? While official Olympic sponsorships are limited and expensive, many other companies want to see their brands associated with the compelling 2012 London Olympic Games. Olympic sponsors pay a high price for the elite placements; sponsors have paid more than $4 billion toward the cost of organizing the events for the 204 countries represented at the Games.

To enforce the sponsors’ contracts, the International Olympic Committee has developed ‘Rule 40’ which gives Olympic organizers the right to punish – and even go so far as to disqualify – competitors if they try to promote their own sponsors, be it online (on Twitter and Facebook accounts) or on the playing field.

What’s a non-sponsoring company to do in this case?  What are some of their options for showing support and highlighting a company’s sponsorship of athletes? The lines are blurred as celebrities carry their brand loyalties and sponsorships onto the global sports stage. Take a look at some of the photos and video clips of the event and you can see logos on everything from gym bags, apparel, sunglasses, food, and headphones.

One notable marketer at this year’s Games is the U.S. Rapper, Dr. Dre. Beats by Dr. Dre Headphones are popping up in a lot of Olympic venues. An example: The Olympian with the most-ever medals, U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, is often spotted with Dr. Dre headphones on at swim meets. And, the company has managed to outfit a number of the elite British athletes with a special Union Jack- designed Beats by Dr. Dre headphones. The guerrilla marketing campaign gave the unique headphones to a number of British athletes in London, including a goalkeeper, tennis player, diver, and swimmers. In return, a number of athletes have tweeted about the headphones; giving Dr. Dre Olympic-level visibility without the high-priced Olympic sponsor price tag.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Review the Olympic Web site and its approach to sponsorship.:
  2. What are the sponsoring companies? What are the advantages of the sponsorships?
  3. Have students pull up images and videos from the Olympic games. Check multiple sports.
  4. List the brands seen in the images.
  5. Which brands were not on the official sponsor list?
  6. Discuss how these brands got visible. What did the companies need to do?
  7. Discuss ethical and legal issues. Is what the non-sponsor companies doing ethical or legal? What about the athletes’ actions?

Source:  Associated Press,  Ad Age Daily, 8/1/12

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