VANOC outlines plan to protect Olympic brand 

Athens 2004 debriefing holds lessons for 2010 Games organizers

The 2010 Vancouver Organizing Committee has taken some flak in recent weeks for coming down hard on businesses, which use the symbols of the Olympic Games without permission.

But it must be done, said John Furlong, CEO of VANOC, or the organization may find itself short of money as it heads into the final stretch of hosting the Games. After all sponsors would see little value in supporting the Games if anyone can use the name, brand and symbols of the event, he said.

This week VANOC unveiled a plan they hope will satisfy businesses using the Olympic copyrighted brand and the organization’s commitment to the International Olympic Committee. Any business which began using the word "Olympic" in their names before January 1998 will not be asked to change their name or marks as long as they do not suggest a connection with the Olympic Movement or the 2010 Winter Games.

However, VANOC will require that those business not use symbols that clearly suggest a connection to the Olympic Movement or the 2010 Games, such as the Olympic Rings, the Olympic Torch, the Olympic Motto or emblems relating to the 2010 Winter Games.

They also cannot use the brand in any new business they might start in a new location or in new ways. Anyone who started a business using the Olympic brand after January 1998 is out of luck and must stop.

However, said Furlong each situation will be looked at on a case by case basis.

Furlong also pointed to the marketing troubles now facing Torino, host of the 2006 Winter Olympics, which is over $250 million short in its operations budget after failing to get the state sponsorship deals it hoped to. He said Vancouver does not want to find itself in that position because it allowed the Olympic brand to be cheapened by unauthorized use. If that happened it would be unlikely sponsors would be lining up to write cheques for the 2010 Games.

Torino is also facing higher than predicted spending on some items in its budget.

"Their problem is an interesting one," said Furlong. "I am a little bit concerned that part of why they have a problem is in the very area we have been talking about… marketing and the ability to sell the Games and build sponsorship."

Furlong said the Torino organizers now have a rough ride ahead of them in raising the money as any new sponsors signing on will only get exposure for a few years not the close to six years many marketing partners are looking for.

But in an interview last week with Pique Newsmagazine Torino spokesman Giuseppe Gattino, said: "We believe we will have a solution before the end of the year."

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