The International Olympics Committee has this “branding” thing down cold. (No pun intended. The IOC is just as obnoxious during the Summer Olympics.) Everything that doesn’t belong to an Official Sponsor has its logo covered (including bathroom fixtures!) until the multi-ring circus of sports (and quasi-sports) folds up the last multimillion dollar tent and blows town.
The IOC is the ultimate control freak. This maniacal desire to cleanse the Games of anything not directly related to its corporate sponsors often results in the sort of behavior you’d normally associate with severe misanthropy. Hobbyist knitters get slapped with C&Ds. A 30-year-old restaurant is forced to change its name. A prominent news outlet has to build its own internal Starbucks in order to escape drinking nothing but the Official Coffee of the Olympics, which is crafted each day to the searing hot specifications of hallowed coffee mecca… McDonalds.
Each and every form of IP protection has been abused by the IOC. Bogus takedown notices/C&Dsare as much a part of the Olympic heritage as lighting the torch or channel-surfing during the figure skating events. The IOC’s rules even provide strict regulations for wearing the logos of theofficial sponsors, not to mention the sponsors who actually footed the bill so these athletes could take part in the Games.
But, as the New York Times points out, even a finely-tuned branding machine like the IOC can be defeated with a little creativity.
The International Olympic Committee, leery of spoiling the canvas, has a 33-page book filled with detailed restrictions on logos. It dictates the size and placement of them on everything from team uniforms at the opening ceremony to the emblems on a skier’s gloves and the stickers on a bobsledder’s helmet. Observers might go the entire Olympics and not notice them.
At least until the snowboarders and skiers go airborne.
The bottom of them may be the most prominent billboards at the Winter Games, a bit of a twist of guerrilla marketing. When someone such as the snowboarder Shaun White flies through the air, cameras often catch the underside of his board, on which Burton, the name of its manufacturer, is spread in large, bold letters. Those images flash across television screens and are published around the world.
Eight of the 12 finalists in the men’s halfpipe competition rode Burton boards. All of them went upside down.
The board makers claim this isn’t intentional and, indeed, it probably isn’t. But what a fortuitous coincidence. Snowboards have normally featured artwork and company logos on the bottom of the board and with riders more technically adept than ever, the chances of a company’s airborne logo being splashed across the screen continue to increase.
What can the IOC do about this? Nothing really, unless it wants to rewrite the rulebook. As the New York Times points out, competition snowboards are roughly identical to the ones sold to the public. This makes the company-centric artwork part of the equipment itself, rather than something added especially for Olympic competitors, which would run afoul of the guidelines.
“The identification of the manufacturer may be carried as generally used on products sold through the retail trade during the period of 12 months prior to the Games,” the rules read.
So, if Burton makes a board with Burton written across the bottom of it during the preceding year, and a competitor splashes Burton all over during his or her run, there’s not much the IOC can do, other than perhaps stare sadly at all of the toilets with covered-up logos and compose takedown letters for crocheting enthusiasts halfway around the world.
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