Olympic partners face online guerilla marketing blitz

London 2012: concerns over digital guerilla marketing
London 2012: concerns over digital guerilla marketing

Olympic sponsors have been warned to brace themselves for a barrage of online guerrilla marketing ahead of the London 2012 Olympics.

LOCOG has grappled with restrictions to protect sponsors, such as limits on outdoor and TV advertising, but experts say the opportunity for brands to hijack the Olympics online remains 'huge'.

With LOCOG facing a challenge to impose restrictions on digital marketing, official sponsors are being warned they can expect 'open season' when it comes to making the most of the Olympics online.

'It is a grey area. The restrictions based on TV and outdoor advertising don't matter any more, especially in the UK with the BBC,' said Steve Martin, chief executive of M&C Saatchi Sports & Entertainment.

'The smart marketers are one step ahead when it comes to social media. It's not as if official sponsors will be taking out superinjunctions to stop brands advertising online,' he added.

While LOCOG argues it will be able to police breaches (see box), Nathan McDonald, managing partner of We Are Social, said the guerrilla social marketing activity will be highly evolved.
'The opportunities are huge. For example, you could check-in near Olympics venues and get targeted local offers,' added McDonald.

Meanwhile, brands such as British Airways are failing to maximise the potential brand-boost of the Olympics by neglecting search strategies, according to new research.

Hannes Ortner, head of linguistics services and analysis at Locaria, which has been auditing the search capabilities of Olympic partners, said BA is letting itself down.

'These brands need to ensure they personalise their strategies for local markets. BA's Chinese websites jump into English and destroy the user journey,' he said.

Statement: LOCOG response

'There are challenges with international enforcement of legal rights where social networking is involved.

'However the principle remains - if a business uses social networking for the clear purposes of ambush marketing in the UK, we can take action for infringement of our legal rights.

'If the ambush activity is outside of the UK, we will work with the IOC and the relevant National Olympic Committee to address the issue - in many countries there are similar laws to those which apply in the UK which prevent ambush marketing of the Olympic Games and these can be used where relevant.'

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