Beyond PR

Jul 17, 2012

Don’t Run Afoul of Olympic Games Marks Use Restrictions

In the run up to the London Summer Olympics which begin in just 10 days, please remember that commercial newswires like PR Newswire can’t transmit press releases that infringe on the uses of the “Games Marks” published by the London Organising Committee.

As is the case with other major events such as the Super Bowl and CES, the London Organising Committee are taking their protected Games Marks very, very seriously.   (See: Britain Flooded With Brand Police to Protect Sponsors.)

Our Content Specialists are counseling clients to change any references to   “Olympics,” “London 2012,” “Summer Games,” etc.  Just as the NFL protects the term “Super Bowl” and we have to counsel press release writers to use something like “big game” instead, we’re doing our due diligence in counseling clients to change “London 2012” copy.

When would such copy be allowed?  There are just two circumstances:

– The company issuing the press release is an Olympic sponsor, and has a contract directly with the London Organising Committee.

– The copy being sent is of a newsworthy style, e.g., London Olympics to Spark Explosion in Mobile Data Traffic

Phrasing that won’t work, in addition to the direct usage of the above examples, includes:

  • “going for gold in 2012”
  • “supporting the London Games”
  • showing an athlete running with an Olympic flame

Giving away free tickets for the Games in a promotion also runs afoul of the rules.

If a press release legitimately refers to the Olympics in a newsworthy manner and makes no claims to be affiliated to the Olympics, then the issuer can be reasonably sure they won’t be violating the Games Marks usage restrictions, and PR Newswire will generally let it run on the wire.  However, if a release writer arbitrarily associates a brand or product with the Olympics, then we will most likely refuse to issue the copy due to the risk of copyright infringement.

If you’d like to read the fine print, here is the link to the “Olympic Symbol etc Protection Act 1995”

2 Comments on Blog Post Title

Kelly 07:52 EDT on Jul 17, 2012

What are the best guidelines for tweeting or posting on Facebook regarding the Olympics? Should we steer clear or just avoid using those trademarked terms? What about the use of Olympic-related hashtags?

Sarah Skerik 11:14 EDT on Jul 17, 2012

That’s a great question, Kelly. The guidelines hold, whether you’re issuing a press release or posting a Tweet. A brand using #London2012 in a Tweet to promote something would be violating the Marks usage restrictions, just as they would in a press release. That said, I believe that they will have no problem with Tweets from private citizens who are following the Games. I’m already planning to be up well before dawn to watch several events live, and will undoubtedly be yammering enthusiastically about them on social networks, and I’m not going to be worrying about the guidelines, because I’ll be acting as a fan, not a brand. All that said, I’m not a lawyer. It would be a good idea to consult your organization’s legal counsel to be entirely sure of what is permissible.

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