Exclusive: Non-Olympic partners winning "ambush marketing" race to Sochi 2014, says report

Sunday, 05 January 2014
By Emily Goddard

Non-Olympic sponsors are still winning the marketing race to Sochi 2014 ©Getty ImagesJanuary 5 - Non-Olympic sponsors are still winning the race to Sochi 2014 ahead of the Worldwide Olympic Partners in terms of brand affiliation to the Games, a report exclusively seen by insidethegames has revealed.

As reported in September, ten of the top 15 brands associated with next month's Games were non-Olympic partners and according to the new Sochi 2014 Brand Marketing Outlook report by media tracking firm Global Language Monitor, which analysed the situation at ninety days ahead of the Games, the situation is not too dissimilar.

In the top 20 list of the report, five of the top ten spots are now occupied by non-affiliated brands - the top spot is currently held by Philips, with the bottom six spots being held by Worldwide Olympic Partners, while the average Brand Affiliation Index (BAI) stands at 83.32 to 83.25 in favour of the non-Olympic partners.

Meanwhile, Samsung significantly leads the official Sochi partners, and currently has four times the brand affiliation with Sochi 2014 than that of McDonald's, and three times that of P&G and Coca-Cola.

The report also examines the raw numerical change since the September assessment.

Starbucks, a non-affiliated brand, gained the biggest jump in its association with the Games out of both official and non-official Olympic partners, while DuPont, Pepsi and Philips all made significant strides as non-Olympic partners, with the Coke, Panasonic and McDonald's brands firmly in the middle.

The Olympic Partners do, however, hold an encouraging nine of the top 10 spots in BAI growth by percentage.

Global Language Monitor puts the cost of being an official Olympic partner as almost $1 billion over each four-year Olympiad ©Getty ImagesGlobal Language Monitor puts the cost of being an official Olympic partner as almost $1 billion over each four-year Olympiad ©Getty Images



Some of the non-Olympic partners were also identified as being in direct competition with the official Sochi 2014 brands, such as IBM Global Services going head to head with Atos Origin, Pepsi and Red Bull against Coca-Cola, DuPont versus Dow Chemical and Royal Philips against GE.

Global Language Monitor warns that the "value leak" of the Olympic brand equity could have far-reaching consequences for the Worldwide Partners.

"Fully freighted, the cost of being a Top Olympic partner can approach $1 billion (£609 million/€735 million) over an entire Olympiad, or the four year period between Summer or Winter Games," read the report.

"This cost includes the IOC [International Olympic Committee] rights fee, associated business development and the cost of advertising, merchandising, and the many other marketing activities undertaken by the Top Sponsors.

"Most of the Top Sponsors have signed multi-Olympic contracts that include Summer, Winter and Paralympics.

"New Olympic festivals, such as the Youth Games, are beginning to make their presence felt on the international sporting scene.

"Therefore any Olympic brand equity transferred to the non-affiliated (or ambushers), can mount to hundreds of millions of dollars in value, or more."

Global Language Monitor is keen to point, however, that "not all competitors are true ambush marketing brands to the official Olympic sponsors since they are not intentionally attempting to co-opt Olympic brand equity".

Dawn Harper posted a photograph of herself on Twitter with her mouth gagged in protest against the IOC's strict anti-ambush marketing rules during London 2012 ©Getty ImagesDawn Harper posted a photograph of herself on Twitter with her mouth gagged in protest against the IOC's strict anti-ambush marketing rules during London 2012 ©Getty Images


The IOC takes ambush marketing incredibly seriously and has created a set of strict rules to govern the use of its brand and help protect its official partners, while preventing non-sponsors from gaining free publicity from the Games.

In particular, Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter prohibits athletes from advertising for non-official sponsors during the Games - something that United States athletes protested against during London 2012.

Hurdler Dawn Harper was among the athletes trying to fight the ban and posted a photograph of herself on Twitter with her mouth gagged with duct tape with "Rule 40" written on it.

"One of the pillars as regards to the funding of the Olympic Movement are the sponsors, both globally and locally," Timo Lumme, the IOC television and marketing director, said at the time.

"At the end of the day we have to make sure their commercial rights are protected - but in a measured way."

To read the full report click here.

Contact the writer of this story at emily.goddard@insidethegames.biz


Related stories
September 2013: Ten of top 15 brands associated with Sochi 2014 are non-Olympic partners, says report
August 2012: End of Olympic blackout period marked by high profile advertising campaigns
August 2012: IOC will not budge on its strict sponsorship rules
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