Opinion: How to stay legal with your London Olympics promotions

Opinion: How to stay legal with your London Olympics promotions

by Farina Azam, solicitor and head of IP, Travlaw LLP

The London Olympics 2012 is undoubtedly a huge event for the UK, and one which the tourism sector can take advantage of. Or can it?

There has been much publicity and comment on the incredibly strict brand protection policy in place and enforced by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Locog), resulting in the common misconception that the law prevents companies from ever mentioning the Olympics 2012 in any way.

Guidance published by Locog specifically for the travel and tourism industry confirms that this is not true – although any mention of the Olympics and its associated brands, slogans and marks is heavily restricted.

So can I mention the Olympics?

Yes you can – but there are 3 provisos that you must adhere to all times when mentioning the Olympics 2012:

1. Reference to the Games must be informative rather than promotional

For example a hotel may state that it is well located in relation to a Games venue or event, within the general text describing the geographical location of the property or a transport company can state that it is putting on additional services for visitors wishing to travel to Olympic venues.

2. The mention should be proportionate and in a relevant context

Statements about the Games must not be highlighted or used to attract a consumer’s attention to an advertisement or promotion.

Mention of the Games must be relevant to the context of the advertisement or promotion and the advertisement must not specifically target Olympics visitors.

It should be an advertisement targeting all consumers and of equal interest to non-Olympics visitors as to Olympics visitors.

3. Must not suggest an association with the Games

You must not produce any advertisements or other promotions which are ‘Games-themed’, i.e. the main focus of the advertisement is the Games, as this will create or suggest an association with the Games.

Any mention of the Games must be ancillary to the main theme of the advertisement, which must not be Games-related, and must not covey an overall impression that the advertisement is or your business is associated with the Games in any way.

Useful Information for Olympics visitors

Locog has also produced a ‘Key Facts about the Games’ documents which includes useful information for visitors to the UK in 2012 whether they are here for the Games or not, providing information on the dates and locations of the Games.

These key facts can be included in any advertisement, brochure or website aimed at visitors to the UK in 2012 subject to the above 3 provisos.

The key facts can be downloaded from tourism2012games.org/keyfacts where you will also find further guidance on how to ensure the key facts are proportionate when using them within your promotional material.

Business as usual

Companies can make statements advising consumers that they are open for business or operating as normal during the Games.

They can advise consumers that advance bookings may be required or journey times may be increased during the Games. It is also acceptable to mention the ‘summer of 2012’ in ways which do not create an association with the Games.

Can I use the Games marks at all?

The answer is quite simple – no. There are many logos and words associated with the Olympics, including ‘London 2012’ and ‘Team GB’ which are all protected marks – whether as registered trademarks or otherwise.

No one can use these marks without the prior consent of Locog – which is generally only reserved for their official London 2012 partners. It is only reasonable that the travel and tourism industry wishes to exploit the national and international interest the Games has and will create.

This needs to be balanced against the interests of the official London 2012 Partners, which includes Thomas Cook, British Airways and the Intercontinental Hotel Group, resulting in some strict guidelines produced by Locog.

In conclusion

Whether you agree with this approach or not, if you wish to mention the Olympics then we’d recommend taking heed of the guidance on how to stay legal when doing so.

Locog takes infringement of its rights seriously and will review cases on an individual basis taking into account a wide variety of factors.

Further guidance can be found at london2012.com/brandprotection or you can contact Travlaw LLP for further assistance.


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