During the 2012 Olympics 300 officials in purple uniforms called the brand police roamed the streets of the UK looking for any signs of ambush marketing. The brand police monitored any activities that could have offended the official sponsors like McDonalds, Adidas, Coca Cola and BP. Every two years the I.O.C and the Olympic host city battle companies that want to bask in the exposure but don’t pay to be an official sponsor.
The brand police were given extraordinary powers and even allowed to enter shops and businesses as they please. Businesses were banned from using any of the following words: Gold, Silver, Summer and London. Restaurants were also banned from serving dishes that could be construed as having an association with the event. Ambush marketing has been around for decades, and no company has practiced this art with more success than Nike. Ambush marketing has been criminalized by with the help of British Parliament which made offences punishable with fines of $30,000 or more.
Brand police even taped over the logos of journalists Dell and Apple computers since neither company sponsored the Olympic games. The U.S. women’s soccer team were banned from handing out media guides that included 12 small logos of their non-official sponsors. During the archery competition when Chinese archer Xiaoxiang Dai was on his way to the bronze medal was forced to put neon-yellow tape on his hat to cover a logo of the Chicago Bears. Quite a few athletes were seen with odd bits of tape on their clothing, gear bags, and even skin. German gymnast Marcel Nguyen had to wear sweat-proof makeup to cover tattoos and U.S. runner Nick Symmonds was forced to run with tape on his shoulder covering a temporary tattoo.
A picture was posted by U.S. hurdler Dawn Harper with her mouth covered with tape reading Rule 40, which is the rule limiting athlete endorsements and speech. Some athletes are turning rule 40 into a boomeranging nightmare for the I.O.C and its partners, drawing even more attention by mentioning that the brand cannot be mentioned.