Will wearing Pepsi t-shirt get you Olympic ban?


Lord Coe at the Tower of LondonSean Dempsey/PA Wire/Press Association Images

There was uproar this week as Lord Coe said on Radio 4 that the Olympic organising committee had a duty to protect the 'rights of sponsors' and that people wearing a Pepsi T-shirt would not be able to gain entry to the Olympic venues in order to protect official sponsors Coca-Cola.

So has Olympic sponsorship gone too far?

The outcry

Coe told the Today Programme: "The organising committee pretty much raises all of its money through that area and we do it through sponsorship and we do it through broadcasting rights. And when you have big British businesses that are prepared to really invest in the Games, you have the responsibility to protect them... You probably wouldn't be able to [walk in] with a Pepsi T-shirt because Coca-Cola are our sponsors and they've put millions of pounds into this project but also millions of pounds into grassroots sport. It is important to protect those sponsors."

In this instance he was soon contradicted by a Locog spokesman who said that spectators were allowed to wear any clothing they chose - and it was only employees in the venues that had to follow specific rules regarding what they could wear.

The confusion had arisen over rules in place in order to stop 'ambush marketing' . As it explains on its website, Locog will refuse admission to anyone wearing: "Any objects or clothing bearing political statements or overt commercial identification intended for 'ambush marketing'".

The issue

The issue is a charged one. Sponsorship has raised £700 million for the Games - without which taxpayers would have ended up forking out even more than the £11 billion so far estimated.

However, in order to secure the sponsorship, Locog has had to agree to certain specific rules, which have started to get under our skin. As we reported last week, it means we can't buy chips anywhere other than McDonald's, or spend on any card other than Visa at the venues.

There was even a question mark over whether athletes would have to appear on the podium in their socks.

Clearly the games needs sponsorship. However, it begs the question of whether it really needs it that much. If we're already spending £11 billion, would it really be so very different to spend £12 billion and wear what we want, eat what we like, and feel less like a corporate sponsored walking advertisement?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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