Here come the men (and women) in purple: Olympic venues awash with “brand police”

As thousands of spectators, media and athletes descend on the Heathrow arrivals hall, and 3,500 soldiers are shipped in to bolster flailing security forces, another group is making its presence known in the nation’s capital.  Decked out in their purple caps and tops, they are the one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple brand police.

Well, ok, the 286 members of the Olympic Delivery Authority (“ODA”) may not have horns or be cyclopes, but they will be traipsing around town in the name of brand protection.  On the look-out for ambush marketers or unauthorised organisations associating themselves or their products with the Games, these “brand police” will be spear-heading the biggest brand protection operation that the UK has ever seen.

As reported in The Independent, the ODA members have been seconded from 30 local councils and are experienced in enforcing street trading and advertising legislation.  Their trained eyes (plural) will be focused on unauthorised use of “controlled representations”, such as the Olympic Symbol and the words “Olympic(s)”, “Two thousand and twelve” and “London”, which suggest a formal association with the Olympics.  In order to protect against such infringements, the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 empowers ODA officers to enter a shop or office in which they reasonably believe an infringement to be occurring and to remove, destroy, conceal or erase any “infringing article” found.   Court action may also be taken against infringers and fines of up to £20,000 may be imposed.

As you would know from our previous posts on the subject (see here), Olympic sponsorship is big business.  Official sponsors of London 2012, including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Samsung, have paid up to US$100 million for the title.  Given the stakes, Games organisers are doing all they can to protect their sponsors’ interests.  Lord Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (“LOCOG”), even went so far as to suggest on BBC’s Today programme that a spectator wearing a Pepsi t-shirt (being a rival of official sponsor Coca-Cola) would not be allowed into the Olympic venues.  LOCOG subsequently clarified this statement, noting that individuals entering the venues may wear any item of clothing they like, branded or otherwise, but have warned against large groups coming in together wearing clearly visible branding which may be classed as “ambush marketing”.

While the LOCOG Deputy Chairman, Sir Keith Mills, has said that the policing of brand protection will be “very sensible and measured”, we would question the “sensibleness” of deploying hundreds of purple clothed “brand police” to roam the streets in search of potential infringers.  Doesn’t the ODA realise how tricky a colour purple is to wear?