Look before you leap on the Olympic bandwagon

Thinking of running a promotion or competition related to the Olympic Games?

Makes sense, doesn’t it, with the eyes of the world on Rio, and everybody catching the Olympics bug again.

What a wonderful marketing opportunity.

But you run the risk of legal action if you use any logo or even certain words linked with the Games – unless you have secured the rights to do so and have been properly licensed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The protected use of a logo and any name associated with the Games is to preserve the commercial viability of enabling the Games to make money – which is ironic given that the Olympic movement was launched to provide opportunities for the youth of the world to come together and celebrate sport as amateurs. Read on...

The rules governing use of logos and names for the London Olympics of 2012 were published in a 60-page document, and in it Gerhard Heiberg, IOC Marketing Commission Chairman, explained why there are so many restrictions.

He said: “The IOC and its partners in the Olympic Movement take the threat of ambush marketing very seriously. We want to protect the integrity of the Olympic rings, the Olympic values and the future viability of the Olympic Games. Corporate sponsorship provides essential support for competing athletes and contributes to the overall success of the Games. Put simply, without the support of our official commercial partners, the Games would not be able to happen.”

So if you try to use the Olympic Games to promote your business there's a strong possibility of legal action.

Writing at the time of the 2012 Games, Catherine Lloyd-Evans, owner and founder of Original Stitch shared her experience.

She wrote: ‘I was tipped off by a friend who manages a large high street bookstore that I was infringing trademark law on my website.

‘We make homewares and accessories from recycled and vintage fabrics, and like many artisans and craft-based companies, one of our products has a Union Jack inspired design.

‘It being the year of Britain’s hosting of the Olympics, we wanted to flag up our cushion. The wording in question was this: “Celebrate the Olympics in style with our Union Jack cushion”.

‘Having read the guidelines my friend sent me, I promptly took down the text in question and quickly removed every other mention of the Olympics on my website.’

So … take care, and avoid any temptation to use the Olympic Games in your marketing material or in any products.

Here’s what you must avoid …

  • The Olympic Symbol
  • The Paralympic Symbol
  • The Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Emblems
  • The Rio 2016 mascots|
  • The words 'Rio 2016'
  • The words 'Olympic', 'Olympiad', 'Olympian' (and their plurals and words very similar to them - eg 'Olympix'
  • The words 'Paralympic', 'Paralympiad', 'Paralympian' and their plurals and words very similar to them - eg 'Paralympix'
  • The words ‘games’, ‘two thousand and sixteen’, ‘2016’ and ‘twenty sixteen’ which may not be used in combination with each other or with ‘gold’, ‘silver’, ‘bronze’, ‘London’, ‘medals’, ‘sponsor’ or ‘summer’.
  • The olympic Motto: 'Citius Altius Fortius' / 'Faster Higher Stronger'
  • The Paralympic Motto: 'Spirit in Motion'
  • The Team GB logo
  • The ParalympicsGB logo
  • The British Olympic Association logo
  • The British Paralympic Association logo
  • The Rio Games pictograms