Business and Operations
Marketing insights: April-May 2014
Ravelry is kind of like Facebook for knitters.
Ravelry is kind of like Facebook for knitters. It had become a tradition for knitters on this social networking site to have what they call “Ravelympics”, where members worked in teams to try to begin and finish a project within the two weeks the Olympics unfolded. It was all in good fun but when the United States Olympic Committee found out, things began to, well, unravel. In its communication to Ravelry, the USOC said, “We believe using the name ‘Ravelympics’ for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. . . . In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.” They were serious and they got their way.
Big events like the Olympics, Super Bowl, and the World Cup are known to be beneficial for pizza sales. Viewing parties are plentiful and business is brisk. It’s smart to promote your menu in tandem with these events. However, should you step out of bounds by using words or images that are protected by trademark, you will end up having your campaign yanked, or worse, incurring a big fine. It can be tricky but there are ways to connect to the big events without stepping on legal landmines.
Events like the FIFA World Cup, the Olympics and Super Bowl are very expensive to stage. With so many people watching, companies are clamouring to sponsor these events and they pay big, big dollars to do so. When other parties associate their brands with these events without paying, it dilutes the exclusiveness of the sponsorship. One might argue that a small business or, heck, even non-profit knitters, using the trademarks and logos of the Olympics, World Cup or Super Bowl doesn’t do any real harm, but legally an owner of a trademark must vigorously defend it to be able to claim ownership of it. Therefore, they can’t look the other way no matter how seemingly innocent or insignificant the situation because it could open the door for the organization to lose ownership of the trademark if challenged. This is why the Olympic committee bothers with a bunch of knitters having fun with the name, and let’s face it, if they’ll rile up a bunch of knitters, even a small business like yours could end up squarely in the pot.
If you do decide to hitch your marketing campaign to one of these large sporting events, you’re wise to do so because they lend themselves to food service and pizza nicely but you’ll need to be smart about it. Start by searching the event’s official website for guidelines regarding acceptable and non-acceptable uses of their protected marketing collateral. The World Cup, happening this year in Brazil, has a page of “Do’s and Don’ts” on their fifa.com website that clearly shows what the boundaries are. The official slogan, trophy image, mascot and emblem are all included in the list of things that can’t be used. There is also a list of official terms not to be used, including World Cup, Brazil 2014 and 2014 Brazil . . . just to cover all the bases. The list is a long one, totalling 17 all together. There are however, ways to skirt around it and the FIFA website does show that “Soccer in Brazil” is acceptable. As with the World Cup, using the term “Super Bowl” is unacceptable which is why you’ll often see it referred to as “The Big Game” instead.
The Olympics has proven to be a bit trickier because it is named after a place in Greece to begin with – Olympia. Therefore, there are more businesses with the word “Olympic” in their name not in reference to the sporting event but to the locale in Greece. In Canada, the COC (Canadian Olympic Committee) monitors and defends use of official Olympic marks. There was a case in the U.S. involving a 30-year-old Philadelphia-based restaurant called Olympic Gyro. The USOC successfully forced them to change their name because the Olympics Act of 1978 gave the USOC exclusive rights to the word Olympic. The COC seems to take a more pragmatic approach to this type of situation. According to an example shown in the brand guidelines for businesses on its website, olympic.ca, a business open since 1968 called Olympic Bakery with a picture of a loaf of bread on the sign should not pose a concern. However, if the image on the sign was of a torch instead of a loaf of bread, the use would not be allowed. An overt connection to the Games crosses a line.
Make sure you’re not running amok of acceptable standards. You don’t want to have to pull a campaign or throw out promotional materials because they don’t meet the guidelines. Check out the event websites for a list of do’s and don’ts and be clever in how you refer to the event. There are ways to get your point across without getting into trouble. Above all, don’t have any sweater triathlons.
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in brand strategies.