Ambush Marketing and the Olympic Games

Ambush marketing

Ambush marketing is an area that is of concern to all organisers of sporting events and is as there is no specific legal protection to combat against it under UK Law often event organisers struggle to fully protect the exclusivity of their event.

With the Olympic Games being held in London in 2012 the UK Government has enacted specific legislation which applies specifically to the games.

The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006

The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act was passed on 30 March 2006 swiftly after the announcement that London was to host the games showing the need that the London 2012 Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) had to protect their newly awarded event.

What was the position prior to the Act being passed?

Prior to the act being passed there was The Olympic Symbol (Protection) Act 1995 which created an “Olympic Association Right” which was a quasi-trademark right which protected the 5-ring Olympic symbol, the Olympic motto and protected words such as Olympics and Olympiad.

There was, however, no specific protection to prevent ambush marketing with the usual legal doctrines having to be extended to try and afford protection.

What does the new law say?

The London Olympic Association Right

Schedule 4 of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act introduces the London Olympics Association Right (LOAR) which provides LOCOG with the exclusive right to authorise persons to use and exploit any visual or verbal representation (of any kind) which is likely to create, in the public mind, an association between the London Olympics and goods or services, or a person who provides goods or services.

Furthermore the Act sets out a variety of words such as “games”, “2012”, “Two Thousand and Twelve” and “twenty twelve” which must not be used in combination with any of the following words, “gold”, “silver”, “bronze”, “London”, “medals”, “sponsor” or “summer” in an unauthorised manner which will be likely to suggest to members of the public that there is an association with the London Olympics.

Official Sponsors and commercial partners can therefore be granted exclusive rights by LOCOG under the Act to associate themselves with the games.

Following on from this provision it is therefore conceivable that many ambush marketing acts previously unable to be stopped will be caught by the act so long as certain members of the public feel that there is a direct association with the Olympic games. It will, however, be up to the courts to decide whether this is the case on an individual case by case basis.

When the Bill was first passed there was a proposal for a presumption of infringement when the prescribed words were used in combination as stated above. Also the burden of proof was on the person who used the words to show that no association with the London Olympics would be likely to be created in the mind of the general public.

Unlock this article now!


For more information on:

  • Is the list of protected words and expressions complete?
  • What is the case in relation to Journalists using the protected words?
  • The Touting of Tickets
  • What is meant by the term Sale?
  • Advertising, Street Trading and Transport