It’s my ball and I’m going home

Balls to it

Today it was announced that there could be a fine of £20k and a possible jail sentence for anyone streaking at the London 2012 Olympics, which I think is just plain mean. There was a time when a friendly streak was a common part of a football match and the crowd loved it, regardless of the sex of the streaker, even if they had an ass the size of the goal itself, it was fun. Viewers at home even got to share in the joke, nowadays if you are watching from the comfort of the sofa you do not even get a sneak peek.

The reason for the stern clampdown it would appear, is the power of the sponsor and the aim of protecting the paid for exposure deals, Olympic big-wigs are worried that non-official partners may get a slice of the publicity. Every major sporting event in the world is sponsored to the nth degree, big brands pay millions to be associated with the most prestigious events and for that they expect a level of control that would embarrass Kim Jong-il… well nearly.

The worldwide audiences enjoying events such as the FIFA World Cup, the Olympics and as we are currently seeing in New Zealand for the IRB Rugby World Cup are huge. The opportunities to see through increased TV coverage, newspapers and the influence of the web both through editorial and UGC means that the level awareness can be almost total. One of the first instances of a brand streaking their logo was Vodafone at the in 2002 during a New Zealand fixture, since then we have seen a variety of cheeky ways to beat the ban, at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 the dutch brewer Bavaria bought a load of seats at a World Cup game. They dressed attractive blonde ladies in bright orange branded outfits in the sure and certain knowledge that during a break in play the producer would look to cut to crowd totty for a bit of a rest-bite, the ladies were arrested which was not a positive outcome for any party. Manu Tuilagi, the England Rugby player was hit in the pocket too for wearing a sponsored gum shield.

Brands who can not afford the cost or who choose not to sponsor officially are therefore left to come up with clever, cunning and sometimes underhanded techniques to get their logo in front of our eyes. I have been in numerous brainstorms where we have been trying to find a way to hijack these events, guerilla tactics are nothing new but where do brand managers draw the line? Can they claim ignorance or apologise when the proverbial hits the fan? Are the inevitable fines worth it?

It is clear that we need brands at these sporting events in order to pay for the stadiums, create the infrastructure and to attempt to keep the ticket prices at a level that the average person on the street can afford. A cautionary word is needed to make sure the brand fits and that the event does not become dictated to by the world of brands, that is when you lose the fans and the magic of these great events ids diluted


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