News » Whistler

VANOC taking Olympic brand seriously

Investigators watching for counterfeits, ambush marketing



Vancouver 2010 officials have hired private investigators to run a secret shopper program across the country to help stamp out 2010 counterfeits.

“We are not going to ignore this,” said Bill Cooper, director of commercial rights and management for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (VANOC).

Once the store and the counterfeit merchandise are identified VANOC would be notified, said Copper, and a decision would be made as to whether to bring in law enforcement.

“It is always us who analyze what action would be appropriate,” said Cooper following a presentation to the Whistler Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.

“If it is a counterfeit item, it is a counterfeit item and it is causing commercial harm and we will take action.”

In 2006-07 there were 500 incidents of unauthorized association with the Olympic brand. In 90 per cent of those cases once VANOC called the perpetrators and the ambush marketing or unauthorized goods were removed.

“The threat is real,” said Cooper.

“There is a tangible reason we to need to protect the brand in Canada.”

And as the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing get closer more and more counterfeits will likely show up.

“In our world… you are getting fairly low end cheap apparel right now,” said Cooper.

“But I think that soon, either in the Beijing window or soon after the Beijing window, because of the consumer attention around the rings and enthusiasm about the national team performing overseas, we will start to see more sophisticated counterfeits, for sure.”

Many outlets in Whistler are already selling Olympic merchandise. For Jeff Coombs, whose store McCoo’s celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, operating inside the law is just the right thing to do.

“It is against the law, and I wouldn’t want to be doing it,” he said of selling unauthorized goods.

“I think just from a moral standpoint you would have to be on a low level just to consider that.”

One of the best ways to ensure the goods you are getting are legitimate, said Coombs, is to know your suppliers well.

VANOC is also preparing for ambush marketing, where a brand pays to become the official sponsor of an event and another brand tries to connect itself to the same event, without paying the sponsorship fee and without breaking any laws.

“Ambush marketing is always a more challenging one to determine where the threshold is,” said Cooper.

For that reason VANOC has set up a system of infringement assessment. It uses six criteria to judge the action: Is it factually accurate use, is it a relevant use, is it commercially neutral, is it used with undue prominence, is there use of Olympic or Paralympic visuals, and is there an unauthorized association.

Each criterion is assigned three points. If an incident scores over 14 VANOC will take immediate action to stop it.

As businesses get ready to celebrate the Games Cooper said they should ask themselves this about their actions: “If the Games or stories around the Games are employed or used to drive sales or business there is a strong likelihood that will be problematic, since that is what sponsors have the exclusive right to do.”

VANOC has also put on hold every single outdoor advertising venue in Vancouver, Richmond and the Sea to Sky corridor in an effort to control ambush marketing. They don’t want a repeat of what happened at the Torino 2006 Winter Games where LG advertised its cell phones on billboards all the way to the alpine venues when the official sponsor in that category was Samsung.

“We owe it to the Olympic and Paralympic movement to deliver the brand back in better shape that when we got it,” said Cooper, adding that 96 per cent of the operating budget for the 2010 Games comes from sponsors, the licensed merchandise program, ticketing, and the broadcast program.

“All those revenue streams are heavily reliant on a well managed brand — a brand that delivers to the partners some level of exclusivity, some tangible tools, by which the story they tell can differentiate them from their competitors,” said Cooper.

“That is why it is so critically important on the road to securing sufficient funds that the brand be well managed.”

Diluting the brand by doing nothing about counterfeits and ambush marketing means sponsors will not want to support the 2010 Games financially, and that would mean less money for the event and the athletes.

Cooper’s brand protection department is already fully staffed but at Games time people will be brought on board to travel throughout the venues to make sure only authorized goods are available.

“They will be monitoring for everything from ticket touting to forms of ambush,” said Cooper.

Add a comment