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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Top secret: firms’ Olympics orders

CUMBRIAN companies have spoken of their disgust at ‘gagging orders’ which prevent them from telling anyone they have won Olympics contracts.

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Bosses at firms based across South Cumbria have revealed they are strictly prohibited from issuing press releases, talking to the media or even circulating details to staff about work they are doing as suppliers to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The 32-page ‘no marketing rights protocol’ published by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), available online, means many suppliers cannot reveal they are working on the Games and are even prevented from publicising their success in internal newsletters.

Olympics organisers say the protocol is to ensure no publicity is taken away from the Games’ main sponsors, who have collectively paid £2bn.

But Adrian Bassett, from LOCOG’s press office, admitted there were “grey areas” within the marketing restrictions.

He said: “Without them (the main sponsors) the Games would not happen. (They) buy an exclusive right to say they are the official sponsors and we have to protect our sponsors and their money.”

While Mr Bassett said companies are allowed to confirm they are doing work for the Games, when asked if companies could respond to questions about subsequent job creation or general benefits, he said: “That is where it becomes a grey area.”

The protocol, which is littered with the phrases “should not”, “must not” and “cannot”, means many suppliers are too scared to even admit they are doing work for the Games.

The owner of one Cumbrian company, which employs around 50 people, said: “While we are allowed to confirm we are doing work, the protocol also states we can’t talk to the media about the work we’re doing, or initiate any press coverage. It’s so confusing, and even with some of the few things you are allowed to do, there are rules about how many words you can use and everything has to be approved.”

Olympics organisers said the marketing protocol had been put in place to prevent suppliers taking advantage of ambush marketing, a strategy where a competing brand connects itself with a major sporting event without paying sponsorship fee.

But some of the Cumbrian Olympics suppliers argued they would not be competing with the main sponsors.

One managing director said: “How can anyone possibly think we would be competing against the likes of BT or Cadbury? It’s absolutely ridiculous.”

The Evening Mail was supplied by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s North West Olympics coordinator Rob Young with a list of 23 contracts won by Cumbrian firms.

He explained his job was a “balancing act” in an attempt to ensure suppliers were given public recognition.

The 23 contracts, which have a combined multi-million pound value, include work won by Ulverston-based Acrastyle, Sundog Energy of Penrith and the Cleator Moor-based Graphskill.

Other suppliers include Draper Fire Protection from Kendal, Carlisle Brass, Miltech in Carlisle, Occupational Health International, Shap Quarry and the Lakes Free Range Egg Company, both in Penrith.

Mr Young said: “I’m very aware of the (no marketing protocol) issue and the challenges it presents. In my role I’m keen to promote the regional benefits of the games and we have been working with companies to get an agreement about what can be said.

“However I do appreciate that from a business perspective that can be quite frustrating. The reality is there are very good reasons about why there are marketing rights clauses in place.

“The games are privately-funded and without sponsors income the games wouldn’t happen. I do understand that on one side but on the other side we are keen to promote UK plc. We’ve been trying to find a balance... it’s a constant juggling act.”

“Suppliers are understandably cautious about advertising success and there is a perception that they can’t do anything.”

What the rules say: 

  • The inclusion of the London 2012 Organising Committee/Olympic Delivery Authority, within a list of clients is permitted subject to various provisos - only if there are at least nine other clients mentioned and with no more than 20 words explaining what the work is, not placing any special emphasis on the Olympics work
  • If any internal communications are likely to be made available publicly... it should not refer to the supplier’s involvement in the Games
  • Suppliers must not create marketing events with a Games-related theme
  • Suppliers must not issue press releases, run advertising or undertake any marketing or PR campaigns around their involvement in the Games
  • Suppliers must not seek to initiate any press, broadcast or media activity about their work in relation to the Games
  • Except to confirm that they are a supplier, suppliers should not respond to media enquiries about the work they are undertaking on the Games, or provide any quotes or comments without first speaking to the LOCOG

 

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