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Think BR: London 2012 - ignoring the guerrilla in the room

A guerilla marketing campaign could be a success at the London 2012 Olympic Games, but make sure you've read all the rules, writes Jonathan Weeks, director, Ipsos Marketing.

Jonathan Weeks, director, Ipsos Marketing

Jonathan Weeks, director, Ipsos Marketing

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Under new rules ahead of the London Olympics, streakers could face a £20,000 fine if they are advertising a brand. 

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that the fines are necessary "to stop potential ambush marketing".

During the 2010 World Cup 36 women were removed from a stadium as the orange clothing they were wearing was linked to the Bavaria beer brand. 

The clothes bore no clearly visible branding, and Bavaria commented at the time "FIFA doesn’t have a monopoly on the colour orange."

The sum of £20,000 - if the streaker is sponsored and has brand backing - is not a lot to spend for potentially global instantaneous live coverage. 

It is also interesting to note that the fine is levied against the individual, rather than the brand they are promoting.

Both the British Olympic Association and FIFA act in the interests of their sponsors. However in acting properly they help to create the noise that leads to the guerrilla tactics being more successful than they may have been otherwise. 

Would spectators in the venue or at home have noticed? Or cared? The more publicity it receives the more the brand will benefit.

One brand that has struck a healthy balance between guerrilla and mainstream has been T-Mobile - most notably with use of flashmobs such as 'Dance' at Liverpool Street station

Four hundred strangers, including tourists and London Underground staff, suddenly leapt into action, showing off a co-ordinated routine of dance moves right in the middle of the station.

While a guerrilla style campaign won’t work for every brand out there, it can certainly get people talking, receive a slew of additional publicity via online and mainstream channels, and tap into a cultural phenomenon that still currently feels fresh to consumers. 

With swift editing and cheap costs to set up and film, this communication strategy has plenty of positives to it.

The official sponsors of the London Olympics, who have contributed around £2bn, want to ensure that they get fair recognition for their brands based on their significant investment. 

Tessa Jowell commented on The Today Programme (Radio 4, 4th Jan 2012) that "the games would be unaffordable [without the sponsorship]." 

The Locog brand protection document states: "Our brand is our most valuable asset. To fund the Games Locog ‘sells’ its brand to sponsors and merchandise licensees.

"If anyone could use London 2012 logos or associate with the Games for free, this funding model simply wouldn’t work."

So for the games to be a success and the sponsors to be protected there are plenty of rules for everyone to heed. Not using the Olympic logos is one rule most consumers and businesses will understand. 

The rules are exhaustive for use of Olympics motto and words like Olympian, merchandise, competitions and tickets, and they even warn that online auction sites will be monitored too.

But consumers en masse don’t necessary like rules, especially when they reach a point of feeling corralled - the balance can tip, and will tip unfavourably against the bigger brands.

What is more likely to elicit a positive reaction from the viewers of the British Olympics? 

Being bombarded by the same sponsors repeatedly over the course of the events, or as with the events themselves, supporting the underdog - the brand equivalent of Michael Phelps swimming against Eric 'the eel' Moussambani?

Guerrilla marketing, like innovative products, can press more buttons than bigger budget - and standard - marketing techniques. 

While both are relevant, consumers are likely to see the guerrilla style as different and innovative. Just make sure you’ve read all the rules, and aren’t streaking or wearing orange. 

Jonathan Weeks, director, Ipsos Marketing

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