Egg-and-spoon ambush marketing?

London 2012 supremo Lord Coe opened a can of worms recently with a warning that anyone seeking to enter an Olympic venue wearing a Pepsi t-shirt could be turned away on the grounds that rival Coca Cola is the games’ official sponsor.

But can an advert for an egg-and-spoon race contravene the Olympics’ strict rules on branding and constitute ambush marketing? Yes, according to London’s Olympic organising committee (Locog).

Paddy Power has sought a court order against London 2012 after Olympic organisers demanded that billboards for the Irish bookmaker’s latest ad campaign imply an association with the games and must be removed.

The Dublin-based group is fighting to retain its ads in high profile sites around the capital on the basis that it does not violate the strict marketing rules designed to protect Olympic sponsors. Locog has instructed JCDecaux, the advertising company carrying the ads, to take them down.

The billboards read: “The official sponsor of the largest athletics event in London this year! There you go, we said it. (Ahem, London France that is)”. They also feature a comment from Facebook that says: “Any mischief planned to upset Locog Paddy?”

Paddy Power ad

Another billboard campaign proclaiming Paddy Power as the official sponsor of an egg-and-spoon race, again in London, France, have also been unveiled as part of the bookmaker’s “We hear you” marketing campaign.

A spokesperson from Locog said: “We can take a joke, but as you would expect we had to draw the line at the provocative references to Locog.”

While Locog has said it will take a “light touch” approach to ambush marketing cases that are not from major competitors to their sponsors they added: “We also have a responsibility to ensure that no-one thinks betting companies have any sort of official connection to London 2012.”

Paddy Power said: “We’re taking this fight to the High Court in the interest of our customers and of common sense.”

Locog said it has not yet received any papers.

Update: On Wednesday evening, Paddy Power said Locog had halted its calls for the billboards to be removed.  The bookmaker called the move a “victory for common sense”