Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Brand Cops

Those of us involved in the creation and maintenance of brands know that the job doesn't end when you hand your work over to the client. If it's going to work, there needs to be an understanding — and a rulebook — about applying the brand and preventing its misuse. The person who looks after this is called a Brand Manager, but more colloquially as a Brand Champion or Brand Cop.

Usually, the Brand Cop's job is to maintain brand standards and message within an organization. But with larger brands, this also extends to ensuring that partners, sponsored events, and various ad and deign agencies who touch the brand all follow the rules.When I did some work for AT&T with another agency, for example, I received a "brand bible" the size of its namesake and spent an all-day session with a Brand Manager from Corporate to get it right.

In the case of the 2010 Olympics, however, the concept of Brand Cops is being taken to a whole new level:

Organizers of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics will send roving teams of observers with the power to confiscate non-Olympic material outside the venues if they feel it violates the Olympic experience, CBC News has learned.


The IOC directive was obtained by CBC News through a Freedom of Information request. A central focus of the so-called clean-venues guidelines is stopping "ambush marketing" and ensuring that non-Olympic sponsors don't try to hitch a free ride on the Games.

"Brand protection teams of two or more members will conduct surveillance on foot, within and around each venue or cluster of venues, at neighbouring areas and in the city to ensure that venues are clean internally, to carry out surveillance for incidents of ambush marketing and to handle and report such activity in the appropriate manner with the goal of ceasing such activity," the IOC document says.

"Ambush marketing" has always been a big issue at the Olympics. When you get an event as big as the Olympics, many non-sponsors try to bask in the glow without paying for "official" status.

While regulating the theft of such a big and valuable brand by commercial freeloaders is quite understandable to most people, there's a dark side to the Olympic brand beat. The CBC adds that the IOC document includes a how-to guide for keeping the Olympic venues free of political, ethnic or religious protest. "The teams will have the power to confiscate material that violates the Olympic brand, and remove unauthorized banners or signs." (Like the gory and seemingly misplaced parody logo that PETA is doing, I suppose.)

Obviously, this potential censoring of protesters' use of Olympic trademarks does not go over well with civil liberties people in B.C. They're countering by having their own street teams follow the Olympic Brand Cops around with video cameras, documenting any potential violations of protected free speech.

Whatever happens, it'll make great reality TV. What you gonna do when they come for you?

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