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Britain Flooded with 'Brand Police' to Protect Olympic Sponsors

Likely to intensify criticism that the Olympics has become too corporate

- Common Dreams staff

Almost 300 "brand police" are soon to hit the streets of the UK, working to protect the advertising rights of major corporate Olympic sponsors, including McDonald's, Coca-Cola, BP Oil, General Electric, Adidas, Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble and others, the Independent reports.

Protesters are defacing BP's London Olympics advertisements over the oil company's involvement in activities the protesters call "environmentally destructive." In sharp contrast to the scandal involving the under-staffing of security for the Olympic spectators, staffing has not been an issue when it comes to policing the interests of corporate sponsors. 3,500 British soldiers on leave are being brought in to bail out the security firm G4S which admitted last week it could not supply the numbers of security staff it had promised.

The special 'brand police' will hit the streets wearing purple caps and tops and have the right to enter shops and offices near Olympic sites and bring court action with fines of up to $31,000 for the 'misuse' of words such as "gold", "silver" and "bronze", "summer", "sponsors" and "London". Only 42 companies have been licensed to associate themselves with the Olympics.

Bars and pubs have been warned that blackboards advertising live TV coverage must not refer to beer brands or brewers without an Olympics deal, while caterers and restaurateurs have been told not to advertise dishes that could be construed as having an association with the event.

At the 40 Olympics venues, 800 retailers have been banned from serving french fries to avoid infringing fast-food rights secured by McDonald's.

The exact extent of the 'brand police' powers hasn't been tested yet – the front cover of a magazine that bears the Olympic rings may warrant a fine, for example. They may even be inside the Olympic grounds telling people what to wear, according to a Vanity Fair article earlier this year — with part of the Olympic contract giving organizers the right to ensure spectators do not “wear clothes or accessories with commercial mes­sages other than the manufacturers’ brand name.”

This entire process has been enshrined in law (the "London Olympic Act 2006") by the British parliament, who were eager to protect the $2.1 billion of sponsorship money helping to fund the Olympics. Marina Palomba, for the McCann Worldgroup agency in London, described the rules as "the most draconian law in advance of an Olympic Games ever."

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