Then, in an epic climax, American sprinter Michael Johnson broke a world record, crossing the finish line with a gleaming pair of golden Nikes strapped to his feet. He was later featured on the cover of Time magazine with those sneakers draped around his neck, along with his two gold medals.
Too bad Reebok spent $20 million to be the Games’ official sportswear sponsor.
Nike’s marketing victory proved an embarrassment for Reebok and the event’s organizers. The incident prompted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to clamp down on ambush marketing and ever since such incidents have been kept to a minimum.
But that’s all about to change. With London 2012 being heralded as the first truly “social” Games, this year’s official Olympic sponsors are more vulnerable than ever.
The business of sponsorships
The London Olympics are expected to be the most regulated Games ever in terms of protecting brand sponsors, and a major reason for that is the proliferation of social media. Sponsorship is big business. The IOC has already raised $957 million from the Olympic Partner program (TOP), which is the organization’s second-largest money-maker after broadcasting rights.