Olympic advertising rules protect sponsors but hold back small businesses

Sponsorship now plays a massive role in sport but no more so than in this year’s Olympic Games. A few years ago, the UK government passed a law called the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 (LOGPG). Since then, tough advertising rules have also been included in the act with the aim of protecting the right of brands and businesses to an association with the games. It’s a right that official sponsors – such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola – have paid millions of pounds for.

The strict set of guidelines creates an air of uncertainty for many small businesses that want to enhance their business opportunities before and during the big event this summer.

Some of the restrictions are more common-sense than anything. For example, unless you are an official sponsor you can’t use the Olympic trademarks such as the Olympic rings and 2012 logo.

However it is the less obvious limitations that small businesses are at risk of falling foul of. Creating any association with the Olympics, even simply by using words like “Games” “Medals” and “summer”, brands are breaching the guidelines.

The restricted use of any Olympic references severely limits the marketing activities that many businesses will be able to carry out in order to promote offers and events relating to the games and stay ‘on trend’ with current events – leaving the gap between SMEs and big businesses (who can afford official sponsorship) greater than ever.

Already there have been some businesses that have been reproached for breaching the LOCOG rules such as Paddy Power whose media buyer JCDecaux were requested to take down adverts, though they contest this ruling. Even small businesses, including a local butcher, have been told to take down a display showing five sausage rings in the shape of the Olympic logo.

Here at HarperJames decided to take our own slant on things (as we like to do) and have created a lovely promotional banner mentioning we have no association with the Olympics what so ever as we haven’t paid for the right to get into the spirit of the games but we are certainly behind our country’s team – even if we can’t say it!


For more information and to read the full LOGPG rules visit .gov website where you can go swot up on all the legal jargon.

This blog was originally posted on Harperjames.com where I started my career in 2011 as a Digital Account Executive.