Olympics, Advertising and the Riot Panel’s call to curb Aggressive Marketing

The imminent Olympics will take place in a city still recovering from the riots. Seven months ago we were shocked by the images that dominated our television screens. The riots, in which around 15,000 people took part, were characterized by the looting of designer stores, such as Footlocker, JD Sports, Orange, O2 and Adidas. Roughly 50 per cent of the recorded offences from the riots were acquisitive in nature. The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel, established by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Official Opposition, this week published a report documenting the panel’s findings and recommendations to help prevent future riots. Rampant materialism is considered an underlying cause of last year’s lawlessness. In addition to the lack of economic opportunities, a breakdown of community ties and the loss of trust in the police and public sector, the panel considered aggressive advertising of designer brands a key cause of last year’s rioting. Aggressive marketing and enforcement of branding creates a demand for objects that low-income sectors of the society simply cannot afford. Big businesses, targeting children and young adults, have created a damaging consumerist culture in some of the most deprived parts of the country. In fact, the panel’s Neighbourhood Survey found that 85 per cent of people feel advertising puts pressure on young people to own the latest products and two-thirds of people feel materialism among young people is a problem within their local area.
Yet, aggressive advertising is a big feature of the Olympics (the LOGOC* have their very own report entitled Brand Protection) and ambush marketing (the association and consequent capitalization on a particular event without paying sponsorship fees) is one of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games’s major concerns. In addition to the concentration of world-famous sporting personalities, the Olympics has now become an effective publicity platform for the advertisement of a plethora of objects, many of which are completely unrelated to sports. In an attempt to keep up with a world rebuilt in a corporate image, the Games have secured sponsorship deals domestic and abroad, ironically culminating in a £20m-plus sponsorship deal with Cadbury. In light of the UK’s childhood obesity problem, some argue that a sweet brand should not promote a sporting event.
The Games now embody changes in our society that are incredibly remote from their notional or founding ideals. Increasingly obsessed with the global gaze and the prestige that hosting the Olympics will achieve within the media, the games are keen to promote big brands, and discourage (if necessary by using force) smaller brands that challenge the hegemony of prime corporate sponsors (including MacDonald’s, Visa and Dow Chemical). This will undoubtedly translate into hours of sponsor-related TV ads plaguing our television screens during the summer months and the city of London being literally branded by these bigger brands. In a city agitated by record levels of unemployment and rising social protests, the continual bombardment on the TV screen by designer brands of over-priced products, which will now be rendered all the more desirable and unaffordable by the Olympics logo stamped on the side, is surely not a good thing. The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel’s recommendation that steps need to be taken to reduce the amount of excessive and aggressive advertising aimed at young people should perhaps, in the essence of social responsibility, be listened to sooner, rather than later.

 

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Sponsors Ambush Spectators

Ambush marketing is something that is causing much concern to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG). It is an issue that has already been causing panic, with numerous reports of alleged ambush marketers coming to light in the last few years, and LOCOG fear that it will become even more intense in the coming months as we get closer to the start of the games. However, if you are wondering what ambush marketing is exactly, let me explain. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) defined it as “all intentional and unintentional attempts to create a false or unauthorised commercial association with the Olympic Movements or the Olympic Games”, which is a fairly selfish definition on their part. Honda has been under investigation by LOCOG following the release of a 2011 ad campaign which featured numerous British Olympic athletes. Furthermore, BMW are the official car sponsor of the Olympics.

However, the IOC’s definition also seems to include small businesses who could be seen as trying to rival McDonald’s, Coca Cola and Visa, who are also official sponsors of the Olympics. The official sponsors have paid almost unimaginable amounts of money to be associated with the mega event, and they are most keen to protect their investment against all ‘rivals’ trying to associate themselves with the Olympics for free. Small businesses could also be potentially fined up to £20,000 without even realising that any crime had been committed, with LOCOG taking a zero tolerance approach on all ambushers. Surely, with big multinational corporations putting small companies out of business all over the world, LOCOG’s wrath should only be directed at the multinationals, but at least McDonald’s will be safe from the threat caused by small businesses.

The spectators at the Olympics this summer are also not safe and could potentially be turned away, or have items taken away from them if they are not products of the official sponsors. At the 2006 football World Cup in Germany before the start of a match, some spectators “were forced to watch the game in their underwear after being forced to remove their orange lederhosen linked to a ambusher brewer”, possibly a sign of things to come. But now that the Olympics has become an advertisement for products that have no connection to sport, and that the world is being rebuilt in a corporate image, and we now no longer have the right to even wear our own clothes, everything is now falling in to place for this years Games to be the most successful yet.

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Social Media Ban For Olympic Volunteers

The 70,000 London 2012 Olympic Games volunteers have been told that they are banned from posting about the games on social media sites. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) have released a document detailing what volunteers can and can not say. In the document volunteers have been asked not to mention details about their role, their location or about the athletes. However, this does seem to contradict British Olympic Association Chief Executive Andy Hunt’s statement that “The International Olympic Committee themselves are really pushing the use of social media and we support that“.

Jean Tomlin (LOCOG HR Director), who blogged in 2011 on the London 2012 website, said that the “Volunteers are the lifeblood of London 2012”. It certainly seems apparent that without the help and the passion of the volunteers, who are giving up their free time to ensure the success of the games, the London Olympics would not be possible. However, with such an infringement on civil liberties LOCOG certainly seem more than willing to dig a yet deeper hole for themselves.

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The Security Olympics

The Olympic Legacy has been an idea under siege since the term was first bandied about. Today though, Stephen Graham, Professor of Cities and Society at Newcastle university has published a damning indictment of the Legacy in the Guardian. His essay outlines how the security operation surrounding the games is not only about security, but instead about the promotion of corporate and political interests, thinly veiled by the non-description of public interest and safety.

Graham’s article does not make for light or quick reading, but here are a few of the ideas to get you going:

With the required numbers of security staff more than doubling in the last year, estimates of the Games’ immediate security costs have doubled from £282m to £553m. Greece’s security costs for their Olympic Games were a major contributor, as part of the overall £10bn costs, to Greece’s subsequent debt crisis. Current estimates for the London Olympic Games stand the costs around £26bn.

More troops – around 13,500 – will be deployed in the London operation than are currently at war in Afghanistan. The growing security force is being estimated at anything between 24,000 and 49,000 in total. Such is the secrecy that no one seems to know for sure. On top of this, an aircraft carrier will be moored on the Thames, and drones will patrol over the ceremonies.

New, punitive and potentially invasive laws such as the London Olympic Games Act 2006 are in force. These legitimise the use of force, potentially by private security companies, to proscribe Occupy-style protests. One such law allows police to arrest or eject anyone that does not comply with the ‘celebratory look and feel’ of the Games – in theory to prevent unofficial advertising. However, corporate interests aside, the odds that this law will be utilised only against advertisers are long.

The security preoccupations of Olympics present unprecedented opportunities to push through highly elitist, authoritarian and speculative urban planning efforts that otherwise would be much more heavily contested – especially in democracies. These often work to “purify” or “cleanse” diverse and messy realities of city life and portray existing places as “waste” or “derelict” spaces to be transformed by mysterious “trickle-down effects”. The scale and nature of evictions and the clearance of streets of those deemed not to befit such events can seem like systematic ethnic or social cleansing. To make way for the Beijing Games, 1.5 million were evicted; clearances of local businesses and residents in London, though more stealthy, have been marked.

Spiraling costs, social cleansing, Government privatisation policy, and suppression of the population – these are all “bigger picture” issues. The everyday realities of the games seem to pale in comparison.  As Professor Graham delivers a strong blow to the pomp and sanctimony of the London Organising Committee, he highlights their priorities articulately but with subtlety. It seems that bankrupting the country is an acceptable price for establishing the Olympic legacy – oppressive security measures and extensive privatisation of any service in reach.

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Olympic Tickets – Seb Coe’s “obsession with secrecy”

 

Chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), Lord Sebastian Coe, has been accused of having an “obsession with secrecy” over the Olympic ticket allocation process. At the London Assembly Dee Doocey, the chair of the assembly’s Economy, Sport and Culture Committee, claims that a statistical analysis and breakdown of tickets “should be available at the hit of a button”, but is being avoided using data protection.

When asked how many of the tickets already sold fall below the £50 mark, Lord Coe said he would not answer until the remaining four million tickets were sold. He claimed that to do so would be providing “partial information” and added his staff “will not provide a running commentary”. His refusal to answer the question clearly sparked anger amongst the assembly members with Conservative member Andrew Boff saying “what you’re saying is that we are too thick to understand the job you are doing and you will not give us the information. That is an insult”.

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Olympic Realities

 

Landlords in east London are already hiking up pricing in anticipation of big profits this summer. Accommodation during the Olympics is shaping up to be very big business- hotels have been booked for months and so private landlords are stepping in to fill the hole in the market. The result of this, however, is massively inflated rent. Long-term tenants are being given the choice between arbitrary rent increases or notices of eviction to make space for short-term tenancies. More on Metro.

Hoteliers and theatre owners have raised fears that foreign tourists could avoid the capital because of the Olympics and possible transport problems. Culture Secretary, Mr Jeremy Hunt, admitted that there would be “displacement”, with fewer traditional, foreign tours coming to London this summer.

To soothe these worries, a £4m TV advertising campaign for domestic holidays is due to begin next month in an effort to persuade the population to stay in the country this summer for the games. The advert exclaims, “There’s so much happening in Britain in 2012, why on earth would you want to go abroad?” Quire right, Mr Hunt – who wouldn’t want to sit in front their TV all summer?

He added: “You’ll kick yourself if you don’t come to London this summer.” And you will; for missing out on all the chaos in the capital. (A new spectator sport for the Olympics?) No transport, no tickets (to the games, to the Olympic Park, to theatres, no hotel rooms or restaurant tables), annexing of public spaces, no jobs, no beer, wildly inflated prices; the list of crises/idiocies goes on.

Seven hundred bars and clubs that receive deliveries from The Brewery Logistics Group are situated on the 109-mile Olympic Route network. Special “Zil lanes” will be in operation on a third of the network and are typically closed to all but official Games traffic from 6am until midnight, making daytime deliveries difficult. Mike Bracey, the group’s chairman, said: “The Olympics for us is the ultimate nightmare and time is running out to find a solution. London Councils and LOCOG are standing in the way of the solutions we have proposed about altering our routes and operating times.” He added: “But if there is no breakthrough then our members will have to either meet huge costs in getting the deliveries through or the beer won’t arrive at all.”
All these disruptions are in the name of the Games… Or profit. Where the London Organising Committee of the  Olympic Games are concerned, the two terms are relatively interchangeable.

 

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