In the past couple of days, Lord Sebastian Coe, head of LOCOG, was quoted as saying that people attending the Games should not wear Nike shoes or Pepsi t-shirts, as they would be thrown out by security. He then backpedalled, saying people wearing Nike trainers would “probably” be let in, but ticketholders wearing Pepsi t-shirts will not be allowed entry. LOCOG has further “clarified” that people can wear what they want. But wow, what a pointed illustration of the ugly lengths the Olympic movement would like to go to, in order to protect their fiefdom:
We own you. We own what you wear. We own your memories and your ability to record and share them. We own your arse, and if you dare to spend tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of attending the Olympic Games, you’d best not forget it.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but what on Earth was Coe thinking? One person with a logo t-shirt will not damage a brand. If a sponsor has done their job and leveraged well, 500 organised people in logo t-shirts will not damage their results.
Interestingly, back when South Africa and Zimbabwe hosted the Cricket World Cup, they were sponsored by Pepsi. People were allowed to bring food and drink into the matches, but if you had a Coke, it was poured out on the ground before you were allowed in. Pepsi wisely told organisers to stop doing that, as it portrayed them as being self-serving and overbearing. Pepsi standing up for the freedom of the fans did more to sway public perception of them than any rights enforcement did, that’s for sure.
Apparently, though, that pendulum doesn’t swing both ways, as Coke has so far been silent on this ridiculousness. If they really wanted to be a hero, they would issue a statement that they don’t believe a handful of people wearing non-sponsor logos is any threat to their comprehensive Olympic leverage program.
In fact, why don’t all of the sponsors say that? Why can’t they, as a group, say “We’re not afraid of an individual’s fashion choices, and we would never endorse curtailing their free will with regard to any commercial messaging their clothing may feature.”
Unfortunately, these sponsors either really think that a t-shirt is a threat to all of their good leverage work, or they’re afraid of the IOC. Either way, it’s all a bit pathetic, and I think the Olympic movement’s ability to dictate to brands, athletes, and individuals is creeping past its limit to a place where the meaning of the competition is lost among the morass of institutionalised selfishness.
Nothing LOCOG or the IOC is doing will curtail strategic ambushers, who continue to thrive, and all this hoo-ha does is make them appear petty, paranoid, and inastute.
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