back to article Marketing body condemns 'draconian' Olympic law

The law that restricts use of words associated with the 2012 Olympic Games in London is heavy-handed, too restrictive and will damage the interests of businesses across the UK, the Chartered Institute of Marketers (CIM) has said. The Olympics Act of 2006 bans the use of terms such as 2012, games, gold, silver and bronze in …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    So you can...

    use "UK Olympics" then?

    Or "Games awarded to the UK, based on bribes, backhanders and polictical motivation and nothing to do with the spirt of sport"

  2. Sooty

    if i understand this correctly

    You can't use the term 2012 or twenty twelve in your marketing. a year! I wonder how many new products are going to be released, if the act prohibits the advertising telling people when it's going to be available?

    I assume there is more to the restrictions on gold, silver and bronze than just a blanket ban on those terms, as they are occasionally used in a context outside of the olympics.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Jesus Wept

    So I'd better be careful advertising that film I was planning to release in summer 2012?

    What is wrong with the existing legislation on trademarks? Why do the 'lympics need special protection? And does anyone really care if you're the official accountants' desk supplier of the 2012 London Olympic Games?

    At least 86% of companies will be able to claim that they don't have a good understanding of the law so didn't intend to breach it.

  4. caffeine addict


    "Summer 2012" and "Summer Games" would both be illegal...?

    Good luck schools...

  5. Al

    What did they expect?

    I'm amazed that this is a surprise to anyone. The Olympics marketing machine has been doing this sort of silliness for years, and whoever's in power when 2012 comes won't do anything to stop it. Labour haven't the backbone, and the Tories won't do anything to upset 'big business'. (If the Lib Dems are in power then by the time they've stopped bickering about it, the Olympics will have passed.)

    Cheer up - in four years time it'll be someone else's problem.

  6. Bob Ginger
    Paris Hilton

    They're worrying about nothing...

    Honestly, who's going to even *want* to be associated with the London olympics?

    Still four years off, but it contains the seeds of an expensive, embarrassing, world-class cock up of the sort that only us Brits can produce.

    Paris, 'cos she knows a thing or two about cock-ups.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Summer 2012?

    "The law means that advertisers cannot use any two of the following terms together: 'Games', 'Two thousand and twelve', '2012' and 'Twenty twelve'. Neither can they use one of those terms in conjunction with any of: 'Gold', 'Silver', 'Bronze', 'London', 'Medals', 'Sponsors', 'Summer'."

    Presumably this means that, much as with 2008, we'll go straight from Winter to Autumn. I wonder if I can copyright the term, "Summer of the year formally known as 2012"?

    Of course, if any one gets into trouble they can presumably carry on in that great Olympic(tm) tradition and just give the IOC a backhander.

  8. Sergie Kaponitovicz

    So, sticking to the letter of the law .......

    ....... "El Reg's Olymics MMXII sweat shirts bow available to purchase" will be perfectly legal.

    SCHEDULE 3 Olympic Symbol Protection states:

    Words similar to protected words

    3 (1) At the end of section 3(1)(b) (infringement: similar symbols and mottos) add "or a word so similar to a protected word as to be likely to create in the public mind an association with the Olympic Games or the Olympic movement".

    (2) In the application of section 4(11) to (14) (infringement: protection for existing use) to the Olympics association right as it has effect by virtue of sub-paragraph (1) above, a reference to the commencement of the Act shall be treated as a reference to the commencement of that sub-paragraph.

    I would argue that MMXII is not a word, and even if it was it is not similar to Two Thousand and Twelve.

    C'mon El Reg - bring it on!

  9. alain williams Silver badge

    Olympic bully boys are just in it for the money

    Sport is just an excuse for a whole crowd of spivs to enrich themselves. The government, enamoured of grand jestures, encouraged this. They knew that the bid of £2.5Bn was low and would have to rise. Many of the so called benefits will not happen or could have been done more cheaply - look at how many unused sports facilities there are in Athens and Sydney. I object to them filling their pockets at my expense.

    Under the law: many Greek restaurants in London are going to have to change their name, why should they when they have been called something like ''The Olympic Tavern'' for years.

    It is the UK common man who has been ambushed by the Olympic money machine.

  10. Nick Drew


    Good to see our legislature focussed on the really important pieces of legislation - namely, protecting huge-spending advertisers - rather than, oh, worrying about the creep of the police state, or debating the relative merits of untrained police being armed with potentially fatal tasers, to name just two examples.

  11. bertie bassett
    Thumb Up

    £20 K fine - got to be worth it.. for nike/rbk etc..

    Buy up every poster site in london for the whole a London2012 ad and then stick your logo/product on the bottom.. Pay the £20K fine and smile sweetly... all the punters will think it's your product that's the official product...

    Given that some of the events won't be taking part in london..and that will be known within the relevant sports then some specialist media advertising might work well for the smaller player withouth breaking this rule - e.g. Weymouth 2012, Wimbledon 2012 ertc

  12. Danyer
    Thumb Down

    Where do you go in Summer 2012?

    Nowhere, but you are going to pay a £20,000 fine for mentioning Summer and 2012 together!!!

    OK, so no more offers: Visit Tunis in Summer 2012 for a a £20,000 fine!!!

    From the article:

    The law means that advertisers cannot use any two of the following terms together: 'Games', 'Two thousand and twelve', '2012' and 'Twenty twelve'. Neither can they use one of those terms in conjunction with any of: 'Gold', 'Silver', 'Bronze', 'London', 'Medals', 'Sponsors', 'Summer'. Breaking the terms of the Act could result in a £20,000 fine.

  13. Jon Axtell

    Two Zero One Two

    Since 'Two thousand and twelve', '2012' and 'Twenty twelve' have been specified as illegal words (newspeak?) there are some other combinations which can still be used. Such as Two Zero One Two, or 2oI2 (letters o and i).

    As is usual with laws now-a-days, they get too specfic which means they can't cover everything and tend to be too draconian in their attemps to cover everything. A general law of no advertising allowed which implies a connection with the Olympics without any payment to the London Olympics should cover just about everything. There can be exceptions like that for the health benefits of sport due to the Olympics. If small companies want to use the Olympics, then all they need to do is pay a bit extra to the London Olympics, if caught out because they didn't know about it (as it usual with over 20,000 new laws being added every day), then they just have to pay the amount required anyway - not a fine. Only if it's obvious and proven that they willinging flouted the law should they get fined.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Summer? FFS.

    So cannot have advertising with words Summer and 2012 or Games in them?

    Although I don't really agree with the bans on other words, as long as someone doesn't try to pass themselves off as being officially involved when they are not it should be OK to use any combination you want it seems absurd to ban "Summer 2012" as in all the fashion houses' summer collections for 2012, the same as they have had a summer collection every year since they have had collections.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    gold and silver

    The olympic people better watch out for the hallmarking act:

  16. Anonymous Coward

    ANY combination of those words?

    So lets see - if someone wants to run a fun day for kids in the local park they can't put anything along the lines of "Summer Games day, prizes by local sponsors" on the flyers for it or they will be done under this act?

    I can understand maybe restricting words like Olympics combined with the year, but to have "Games" as one of the restricted words is ridiculous!

  17. James Osborne-Smith

    Restricted terms

    So let me get this straight - any of the following combinations on advertising would lend you with a £20,000 fine -

    Gold Games

    London Two thousand and twelve

    or even Summer 2012

    but Sponsors of London's Summer Gold Medals would be fine?

    You have to be kidding, right?

  18. John Chadwick

    So does this mean....

    The Olympic Police will be breaking down the doors of the RHS and its allies for awarding a 2012 gold medal for my prize cucumber.

    Will we see Dermot Gavin hauled away from Chelsea for awarding the Gold Medal for the strangest concept garden....

    Will CAMRA and countless other organisations be banned from awarding gold medals in 2012.

    But then the Lawyers won't be able to award themselves a 2012 gold medal for making pots of money for trying to defend or prosecute a stupid law.

  19. Peter Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    so, I guess..

    .. there will be a large demand for GAMES supervisors whose palms can be crossed with SILVER to allow the use of banned words. That should happen in LONDON around 20:12 at night so such GOLDEN handshakes cannot be reported. That will make for a nice 2012 SUMMER.

    Lemme see, that is then, umm, £140'000, thank you?

    I spot a bad case of cranial invasion of the rectal cavity here. There must be a better way.

    Oh, and what allowance does a London taxpayer get for their involuntary donation to the Games?

    Ah. Thought so.

  20. Andy

    I can't say "Summer 2012"?

    That's going to be a bummer for movie distributers, to start with.

    "Out now in the warm season of the year after 2011"?

  21. David Harper

    The whirring sound you hear ...

    ... is Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, spinning in his grave.

    Alas, the International Olympic Committee is notorious for persecuting anyone who dares to use the word "Olympic" without its consent. Rather like Stelios Haji-Ioannou and "easy". Or the RIAA.

  22. Nano nano


    Though presumably if your product actually wins a "gold medal" in some product competition (recent Chelsea flower show ? Beer ?) you will be allowed to say so ?

    Or not ?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't think so....

    The Olympic games have been around for a slightly longer time than the marketing twats hogging the lingo.

    THEY should pay the Greeks. They invented the bloody thing.

    Peter R.

  24. Nano nano

    No problem

    Nope, I'm raring for the London 0x7DC games (or should that be MMXII ?)

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Trademark it?

    Isn't the normal trademark law enough?

    Perhaps if the uk government didn't pass this extra law, the (censored) might have gone to Paris. And that would be a bad thing.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Normaly I've got no sympathy for advertising.....

    but this seems a bit rich. We're all paying through the nose, via our taxes, for this so why shouldn't a London based business be entitled to make some money through it? Perhaps not use the Olympic symbol, and certainly not the "official sponsor" text, but some mention surely!

    I thought the whole point was to bring money into London and the UK.

    Mind you I think we all know it's a big con and will end up costing more than it makes. I'm also surprised the greenies haven't pointed out what a massive ecological disaster the whole thing is. I'm supposed to live in the dark ages to save a minuscule amount of carbon, but the Olympics can piss it up the wall like it's going out of fashion!

  27. Steen Hive


    "Under the 2006 Act, your ability to punt rampant lies to consumers are to be severely limited"

    Aw diddums.

  28. Steve

    Awww poor marketeers

    They might have to be creative...

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jesus Christ almighty in a handbasket...

    Aren't the Olympics supposed to "bring people together in peace to respect moral principles?" (IOC website). Someone needs to rethink this whole Olympics thing. All I see is greed and capitalism in its most foul incarnation. Okay, no surprise there, but, heaven forbid the people whose taxes paid for it should benefit in any way.

    What about the 2012 London Gold awards for student volunteering? Probably just going to have to skip it that year. Maybe they could call it the 2012 London Shiny Yellow Awards, or they could use the Chinese calendar I suppose. They could use the Mayan calendar, but I don't think it goes that far.

  30. tashi


    After the so-called "Summer 2008", the tradition of years having a summer is clearly in terminal decline.

    In four years I expect any company that used the phrase "Summer 2012" would look laughably old-fashioned, even if it were legal to do so.

  31. Paul Charters

    If you're a credit card company...

    Would that mean it is now illegal to put up a poster that says 'If you live in London, try our Gold card for fixed interest until 2012'?

    I'd like to see the courts fight that one out...

  32. Dave


    The whole point of hosting the Olympics and similar events is the knock-on benefits: Next thing will be that all of the venues will be dismantled immediately after the games because they are 'too good' for the locals !

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    How can they ban the use of normal words in advertisement, I mean the idea is fair enough I suppose, but banning someone from using the term "summer 2012" seems a bit extreme. Although I shudder to think that there even exists such an institute, the CIM is right.

  34. P. Lee

    It like most laws of the last 15 years

    Make everyone guilty then just pick up those deemed "objectionable".

    It makes prosecution _so_ much quicker, cheaper and more efficient.

    Justice and fairness have walked the plank.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Marketing, the poor underdogs.

    Bless 'em, suddenly required to put some effort in the cry foul. Aren't they supposed to be the "Creatives"?

    I also rather liked:

    "keener to protect large international companies than support its own grass roots businesses and entrepreneurs"

    Imagine, a large multinational wielding more influence than a corner shop!

  36. Andrew
    Thumb Down

    Spread the word

    Anyone who keeps a blog or website - let people know about this (like here - ). Legislation like this goes so far against the stated aims of the games (peace, harmony, achievement etc) that it kills the spirit. China was how it WASN'T meant to be done - it shouldn't be used as a blueprint.

  37. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Does anyone actually watch the Olympics?

    I didn't watch the last ones, and neither did 90% of my friends. And I didn't really watch the ones before that, where ever they were. About all I know is some swimmer won a bunch of medals.

  38. ratfox

    This calls for Pratchett-style allusions

    "The year between 2011 and 2013"

    "The season between spring and autumn"

    "The Au metal"

    "The capital of Great Britain"


    I wonder what "the L*** school of economics" will do...

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No 2012?

    Microsoft's marketing department is going to be screwed.

    This law is ludicrous - gold, silver and bronze are widely used words in advertising, think of all the 'gold' cards out there, or 'gold' service plans and support schemes. Are the banks going to stop offering gold credit cards, or will we all be automatically upgraded to platinum?

    This is a laughably bad piece of legislation, but pretty much typical of the ever-increasing number of laws Parliament churns out without ever thinking through.

  40. Barrie Shepherd

    Olympics Act

    Similar draconian Laws were passed in Sydney for the 2000 Olympics. All it meant was that local industry missed out at the expense of off shore companies who ignored the law, and imported the el'cheapo stuff anyway.

    In Sydney it got so stupid that people were told they could not take their own soft drinks to the games lest a can of Pepsi got into a press or TV picture when Coke were the sponsor (or vice versa) – even self carried bottled water and sandwiches nearly got the chop till the health risks from starvation [prices in the Olympic Precinct would make Fortnum & Mason jealous] and dehydration were recognised.

    I had hoped that these levels of stupidity would not have found favour with the English law makers but I guess the desire to keep the magnificently self important Olympic “politicians” sweet has once again led to the host countries leaders prostrating themselves before the Gods from Mount Olympus.

    Wait for the only Mackers burgers, no emblems on your tee shirt and silly restrictions on mobile phones/camers/MP3 players and god knows what else (not the Mount Olympus one by the way).

    The mere mortals who have to live in London are in for a rude awakening when the full realisation, of the lengths that will be taken to “make the Games the best yet”, are enacted.

    At the time I worked near Sydney Central Station the main gateway to the Games, local businesses (food courts etc) were all spun the “be prepared for rushes of people profits will be up” didn’t happen, I spoke to the coffee shop owner whose takings were 40% down – why because the locals went on holiday leaving only skeleton staff in offices and the tourists just wanted to get to the venues not hang around.

    Like Montréal I’m sure Sydney is still paying for the games. The level of state support to keep the “world class venues” from becoming rusting concrete hulks is a closely guarded secret never to be revealed lest people say the king had no cloths on in 2000!

  41. John

    I thought

    that something stupid like this would happen. Pre-planned stupity - you gotta love it.

  42. Stewart Haywood


    The measures are designed to combat 'ambush marketing', the practice of companies attempting to use a sporting or cultural event to achieve exposure for their brand or products without actually paying to sponsor the event.

    I may be wrong but, I thought that every company, man woman and child in the UK was sponsoring the SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES of 2012 in LONDON including the production of every GOLD, SILVER and BRONZE medal, by paying taxes. If they are not allowed to use certain words, then they should ask for their money back.

    How about a joke icon that has the five rings in the background, maybe with gaps in them so they are not really the olympic rings. You could call them a Chinese puzzle.

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to the worldwide sports competetion

    Known by the 5 color interlocked rings. Now, what I want to know is: what did they do about teh contact lenses...gouge out the eyes? Poor babies; having to do with an unauthoirzed logo that was, what, maybe a 1/4" across?

    I hope they can deal better with the rings tattooed on me arse...maybe they'll get a right close look.

  44. Franklin

    London Summer Gold futures

    GoldBronze child actor Games London spot prices, Sponsors runup in Gold futures while Silver haired warherokerry pitches Medals at whitehouse in bid for Twenty-Twelve presidential Run.

    21Juneto21Sept, CityontheThames, CopperZincAntimonyLead! Au! Ag!

    Am unsure of the love atop his own hair into of the scene in front because of random guy's x builds on the two Notes: jwz usenet Re; select whether or, non existent cables, and my opinion. Save the feathers came out immediately upon Us, a place to mean. Then another thing you a new. These get a list.

    Two-Thousand Ten and Two!

  45. Paul Nagelkerke

    "Vancouver" "2010" "Olympic Pizza"

    Try the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC).

    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (eh!) is hosting the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and our local business thugs (VANOC) tried to get the 25 year old Olympia Restaurant to change its name!

    They have since backed down, but go after anyone else using "2010" or "Olympic" in a corporate name.

    Rumour has it that they approached Olympia Washington (USA) to change their name, along with renaming the Olympic Peninsula, and were told to go perform illicit and anatomically impossible things to themselves.

    Needless to say, I'm leaving town during during the event, and maybe not coming back...

  46. Anonymous Coward

    They follow through

    We got a call yesterday, someone had decided that an olympics poster was not allowed in a shot of a product we sell on our website.

    Lawyers phoned and told us to remove it immediately or face court action.

    Employees: under 20

    Products: in no way even remotely Olympics based

    So, clearly the company were a big threat to their sponsorship deals.

    Now, personally I would have told them that this would happen had I been aware. But, how petty can you be?

    IMO legal system up next for review in the UK.

    (fruitless) Labour probably fail to make an impact just as they will with the financial sector and regularly do with anything involving a big company that "might not want to stay if we make them follow the law"

  47. Pinwizard


    I'm releasing a computer game in the near future.

    "Silver bullets 2012: Vampiir werewolves in London"

    and a book:

    "Gold standard: 2012 marketing games that can keep your sponsors happy"

    Do I need to rethink?

    But... as nobody has asked yet:

    Where's the IT angle? This is a marketing article and marketing is one step up from... what IS under the bottom rung of society?

  48. makis havadjias


    the law is absurd/ it does not take into account that the buzz and effect of the games is created by the excitement of the little guy/

    the ancient olympics were games where friend and foe competed under contitions of peace/present

    nations and the National olympic committes do not practice this / Rather they see (tessa Jwel included, as stated in her article in the daily telegraph)the olympics as marketing and money making ,and some sports competition/ and the IOC speaks of peace but conciders the idea of EKECHEIRIA as eutopia/

    unfortunately the law is the product of greedy merchants influencing parliament for money only

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