The long-awaited summer of 2012 is almost here. With so many things happening on our little island including the summer games, you’d think that PR consultants up and down the country would be rubbing their hands with Olympic-themed glee. But you’d be wrong.

Instead of producing fertile ground for PR-able content and campaigns, the games come with large, “Private Property – Keep Out” signs attached. Case in point: Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) has been signing agreements with Twitter and FourSquare to prevent brands who are not official sponsors from cashing in on the London 2012 name.

However, it looks like these tight guidelines may not be safeguarding the London 2012 brand as much as the organisers would like. Despite not being an official sponsor, Nike’s efforts have nevertheless enabled them to dominate online conversations around London 2012. According to Digital Agency, Jam, 7.7% of conversations about the Olympics is attributed to Nike, while Adidas – who paid a reported £100m to be the official sponsor of the games – received just 0.48% share of online conversations from the period 1 December 2011 to 7 February 2012.

Nike has managed to cleverly sidestep Logog rules with the Make It Count campaign, pulling in Olympic heavyweights Paula Radcliffe, Mark Cavendish and others. With the hashtag, ‘#makeitcount’, the campaign does more than suggest an alliance with the games through the combination of sport, the UK and the aforementioned Olympic celebs. The campaign kicked off with a video posted on New Year’s Eve 2011 asking, “How will you make 2012 count?”  This, following on from Nike’s accidental success through social media in the 2010 World Cup, should have sports marketing types having a re-think.

And it’s not just brands who are banned from mentioning London 2012. If you were hoping for some leaked backstage photos of Tom Daley eating a packet of Quavers, you are going to be disappointed. Locog has banned their 70,000-strong army of “Game Makers” (volunteers) from posting any information or photos from backstage at the games.

Despite many brands being affected during the summer games and beyond, it seems that Locog is not wanting to play ball and allow these brands (or its own volunteers) to share games-related information over social media platforms. While it is understandable that – like any brand – Locog will want to protect the London 2012 name, perhaps the committee is taking more than it’s giving. The media seem obsessed with churning out stories about how London and the wider area will be affected by the games in the summer – with overcrowded public transport, blocked-off roads and a flock of confused tourists heading to streets near us soon – what exactly will the Olympics bring to brands? Not even a tweet, it seems.

With all these limitations, Locog is trying to police the un-policeable – the digital sphere. It remains to be seen how Locog will deal with inevitable rule-breakers and what this will mean for future digital media campaigns.

For more information on what can and cannot be said regarding the London 2012 games, have a look at the official guidelines here:

Ninety per cent of souvenirs for the 2012 Olympics were made abroad, according to recent headlines.   The London 2012 Organising Committee must have known the story would eventually break and outcries would follow, but how well did they do with reputation management?

The first rule of journalism is to “inform and entertain” and this story has everything: a global event, a damning statistic, and a reason people should care. It plays on the subconscious expectation that everything associated with London2012 should ultimately benefit everyday Britain, an expectation carefully crafted by the backers of the bid (and undoubtedly, PR consultants) in the first place.

Therefore my initial reaction, like many others’, was one of anger. Then I wondered how those responsible could defend themselves. I found it – starting with paragraph 10 in the Daily Telegraph’s report:

“Ninety per cent of our licensees are British companies and those which aren’t UK companies all have UK offices, employing UK staff.

“All London 2012 products have their design, development and creative work done in the UK and as a result of winning these licenses, companies are employing more staff in the UK.”

It makes sense. As Locog explained, many products supplied and sold by British companies are made overseas. For whatever reason and unconnected to the upcoming Olympics, Britain is based on a knowledge economy. This country has not been a manufacturing power for some time. If what Locog is saying is true, there is a very good defence to the Telegraph’s story. Their response was completely omitted from the Daily Mail’s report.

That is journalism folks. “90 per cent of souvenirs made abroad” is much more entertaining than “90 per cent of London 2012 licensees are British companies”.

Locog should have been much more aggressive in their response to this story and stamped out the possibility of the issue arising again. What journalist in their right mind would refuse a phone call with Sebastian Coe to hear his side of the story? As the story was covered by only a small number of publications (it didn’t cause a global uproar), his response could even have been sold in as an exclusive to guarantee a big piece.

What actually happened? A reactive ‘statement’ from a ‘Locog spokesman’ buried beneath emotive, intricate examples of souvenirs produced abroad, such as “…Union Jack-emblazoned tea cups, crystalware, tea towels and even fluffy toys on sale were produced by foreign workers.”

Stamping this out with a proactive public relations offensive would have helped educate people on the reality of the situation. Instead, nothing was done, and four days later The Independent reported London 2012 tickets printed in Arkansas.

Locog, our new business chap’s name is Fraser, if you’re interested.

Is it time to shape your reputation?

We operate in London, Paris and Munich, and have a network of like-minded partners across the globe.

Get in touch

Sign up to Spark, our newsletter

Receive thought pieces from our leadership team, views on the news, tool of the month and light relief for comms folk

You can unsubscribe at any time, please read our privacy policy for more information