Are we headed for a future in which people are jailed for “branding crimes”? A special set of laws passed by British Parliament, at the behest of the International Olympic Committee, criminalizes “brand violations” related to sponsors of the London Olympics. It will be illegal for local businesses to publicly display words such as ‘twenty-twelve’, ‘medals’, and ‘London Games’. Athletes are banned from publicly mentioning companies or products that are not sponsors. Crack teams will patrol Olympic Village bathrooms, taping over manufacturers’ logos on soap dispensers and toilets. The Guardian writes:
With just a little more than three months to go until the opening of the London 2012 Games, attention is increasingly turning to what many legal experts consider to be the most stringent restrictions ever put in place to protect sponsors’ brands and broadcasting rights, affecting every athlete, Olympics ticket holder and business in the UK.
It is certainly very tough legislation,” says Paul Jordan, a marketing specialist at law firm Bristows, which is advising both official sponsors and non-sponsoring businesses on the new laws. “Every major brand in the world would give their eye teeth to have [a piece of legislation] like this. One can imagine something like a Google or a Microsoft would be delighted to have some very special recognition of their brand in the way that clearly the IOC has.”
The organizing committee has also put together a detailed social media and blogging policy for athletes, so that they don’t accidentally fall foul of regulations – by Tweeting about a brand that isn’t an Olympic sponsor, for example. Like all attendees at any Olympic venue, there is an absolute bar on athletes uploading snatches of video or audio, which would contravene lucrative broadcasters’ rights.