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You Know Marketing Has Gone Too Far When …

August 20, 2012

… you have a headline like this:

Michael Phelps To Lose His Olympic Medals?

OK, so it’s probably unlikely to happen, but surely something is fundamentally wrong when the world’s greatest Olympic athlete is in danger of losing his medals from the London 2012 Olympic Games for participating in a Louis Vuitton fashion shoot.

We’ve seen some ridiculous things going on at the Olympics this year in the name of marketing, advertising and sponsorship. Case in point: McDonald’s force Olympics bosses to ban all other restaurants from selling chips.

This latest news about Phelps comes about as a result of ‘Rule 40’:

‘Except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games.’

As the official London 2012 guidelines go on to explain, somewhat ironically:

‘The rationale for Rule 40 goes back to the amateur roots of the Olympic movement. The rule ensured that athletes maintained their amateur status.’

I’m a firm believer in marketing playing a vital role in accentuating, promoting or celebrating achievement – but marketing has gone too far when the perception is that it is more important than the core activity it is supporting.

Let’s hope that by the time the next Olympics come around in Rio in 2016, marketing is put back in its place and we just celebrate human sporting achievement, pure and simple.

(Pictured: “Michael Phelps wins 8th gold medal”, photo by bryangeek, available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) licence.)

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