Bookmaker cheekily gets around Olympic copyrights

By Troy Rawhiti-Forbes

There is a clever advertisement being seen around London on billboards and in newspapers that would be sure to coax a broad grin from even the mildly mischievous.

"Official sponsor of the largest athletics event in London this year," reads the advert for a popular Irish bookmaker.

"There you go," it goes on to say in a yellowish colour most commonly associated with a first-place podium finish. "We said it."

The bookmaker's lawyers have defeated the legal team representing the 30th Olympiad to have the campaign halted - because the cheeky promotion was touting a contest in the little-known town of London, France.

Critics call the practice "ambush marketing" - where companies not "officially" affiliated with the event use it to market their products - but so far only the little people have been hit.

The most overzealous example was when the Olympic organising committee spanked a small south London bakery for putting five bagels in an interlocking style in its window.

Resentment against such action has simmered for days, and news of the bookmaker's victory is significant for businesses big and small.

The law calls it exploitation, but what's a business to do when there is only one official supplier of painted rubber ducks, or when millions of visitors want to watch synchronised swimming while having a pint?

It's all a bit ridiculous. If you stroll past any neighbourhood pub with a big-screen TV, the chances of seeing an accompanying chalkboard to entice you in are quite high.

But you won't see a single one using anything from the list of sacred words and phrases relating to the Olympics. Instead, it's "the summer of sport" or "the big event". It's reminiscent of last year's Rugby World Cup, when a $10,000 sign went up at Colin Giltrap's Auckland car yard in support of the home team. Go the All Blacks, it said.

I cannot think of a single person who might have been inspired to buy a car from him, but probably plenty who admired his spirit and perhaps raised a central digit at the fun police who forced him to change the sign to something much less inspirational.

Well, here we go again. You can't sell an event to people on the spirit of participation and then censure them for trying to belong.

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