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February 18, 2010

When "Branding" the Olympics goes too far

So far, as a Vancouver citizen, I have to say that the Olympics have generally gone off pretty well here.  There have been the few bumps and bruises (the hydraulics failing on one of the torches in the Opening Ceremonies is a classic moment, or the cancellation of numerous tickets up at Cypress Mountain for various events because the standing room only area was a sea of mud instead of snow), but overall, I think it's been positive.

But there are some dark things behind the scenes.  Most of these are the usual things (i.e. cost overruns, poor decision-making by VANOC, etc), but one thing I found out the other day just chapped my hide (and it's already raw to begin with!).  That is the excessive branding of the Olympics, taken to new heights (or maybe not new...can anybody in Salt Lake City tell me whether it happened there too?)

I'm not just talking about all of the "Official Olympic Blah Blah Blah" that overwhelms you (like McDonald's being the Official Artery-Clogging Food of the Olympics or whatever it is).  That mainly only troubles me because that means we keep getting the SAME FRIGGIN' COMMERCIALS OVER AND OVER AGAIN, at least up here in Canada (I would guess NBC is the same, though).  And if they want to make it so that only cash and Visa is accepted at all Olympic venues, that's their prerogative.  It's annoying, but that's fine.  Anybody can do that if they really want to.

So when has it gone too far?  ("Finally!  The point!" - The Peanut Gallery)

I was talking to one of the Official Olympic Volunteers the other day, and I discovered that they get bitched at by their Official Olympic Overlords if they wear their Official Olympic Volunteer Uniforms TO STARBUCK'S.  That's because Starbuck's is not an official sponsor (the official coffee is some Vancouver coffee place) and thus they don't want their uniforms being seen going into Starbuck's.  There are plenty of Official Cars of the Olympics driving around Vancouver right now (I'd take a picture and post it here, but I'd probably be swarmed by VANOC lawyers for showing an image that they didn't approve), and I was told that they couldn't even park in front of a Starbuck's.  If the driver was going to Starbuck's, they were supposed to park a ways away from it and walk.  

That's complete bullshit!  What if they weren't even going to Starbuck's, but that was just the closest parking spot to where they were going?  Are they saying that Official Olympic Volunteers can't pull out their Mastercard to pay for something at Red Robin if they're in uniform?  Does that mean they can't drive to their Official Olympic Volunteer Spot in their 1998 Toyota that they haven't been able to afford to replace because Toytota isn't a sponsor? Or that they can't wear their Official Olympic Volunteer Uniform when they're tooling around in said Toyota? (Most people are taking transit to venues, but they *can* drive if they want).

It's all insane!

I realize these companies have paid a lot of money to become the Official Something Or Other of the Official Olympic Games, and thus they don't want any rivals horning in on their territory.  But when it starts getting in the way of people's freedoms, that's when I start to get angry.

Cue David Banner:  And you wouldn't like it when I'm angry.

Is this offensive to anybody else or is it just me?  I don't mind if you want to give us the same lame commercials all the time, but I draw the line at not being able to do what I want to do (within reason, of course...I don't want anybody to become the Official Criminal of the Olympics or anything like that).  If I had been the one chastised by the Official Olympic Official for going to Starbuck's, I would have taken off my bright blue Official Olympic Volunteer Jacket and stuffed it down the guy's throat.

Then I would have been the Official Throat-Stuffer of the Olympics.


  1. smurfs unite! you have nothing to lose but your ugly coats!!
    - the wife

  2. Wow, that's totally crazypants! And would make me just want to go to Starbucks, park at Starbucks, and wear whatever I darn well pleased.

    (also, kind of ROFFLING over the notion of "Official Criminal of the Olympics." I vote for Martha Stewart for that one... she's sort of a corporation AND an ex-con anyway, plus people have heard of her. And I hear she makes some good food, too.)

  3. Yes, I forgot the smurfs!!!!

    Here's a link to a picture (I don't wanna be sued!)

    I like the Martha Stewart idea too. Sounds like a good topic for your next blog post (hint hint)


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