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Nike continue to cause headaches for their in-house lawyers

Posted by: Laurence Simons 01/08/12

Firm is decidedly ambushing the Olympics

Here is a fun game for those in in-house legal jobs: figure out a way to skirt around the fierce restrictions on Olympic advertising at the London 2012 Games as enforced by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). Here are the rules: you cannot say 'gold'. You cannot say 'bronze'. You cannot say 'London'. You cannot, basically, make advertising fun to look at in anyway. That is your challenge; that is the game.

And it's a game being played by various media-centric law associates this week, as big brands who were too stingy to actually sponsor the Games try and get rich and fat and healthy off it, like so many organic ducks.

"Our approach to enforcing the [London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 2006 Act] has always been sensible, pragmatic and proportionate," said a LOCOG spokesperson, throwing a brick through the window of a bakery selling five-packs of multicoloured bagels. "We have to protect the rights of our sponsors," they continue, setting fire to a non-branded shellsuit. "We are tough on commercial abuse," they say, knocking a juicebox out of a child's hands and replacing it with cola.

But Nike, oh Nike: Nike is tempting fate. Their latest big budget poster campaign - not so big budget that they actually could sponsor the Olympics, but big budget enough - focuses on amateur athletes in various towns and cities dotted around the globe that happen to be called 'London'. You know, like London. "Greatness doesn't need its own anthem," says one strapline, as a kid in Little London in Jamaica slamdunks a basketball. "Greatness doesn't only exist in SW19" says another, while a London, Ohio native pocks tennis balls back and forth. "Greatness wears sweat like a perfume," says another. Greatness must travel on the tube a lot then, huh.

Actual sponsors Adidas, however, profess not to be fussed by the blatant ambush marketing. "We have absolutely no issue with it at all," sniffed a spokesperson. "It is not for us to comment on. I don't think it relates to the Olympics at all."

Is it sniping? Is it worthwhile? Is it the least entertaining game on show at these Olympics? Yes, no and yes: but either way, those in corporate legal jobs are going to be kept very busy with it over the next couple of weeks.