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It wasn’t just the spangly swimming costumes and the ‘Mobot’ that caught our eye at the Olympics this year, there were some impressive marketing campaigns going for gold too.

Brand protection at the London 2012 Olympics had nearly as much security as the Queen and it wasn’t long before Locog were banning adverts, posters and campaigns all over the country. Children lining the streets were told they could only wear Adidas shoes, spectators across London emptied crisps and sandwiches into unbranded plastic bags and one café in Camberwell had to take Olympic ring shaped bagels out of its window. The UK went brand protection crazy.

Luckily for us, this meant that companies had to get even more creative when it came to advertising during the Olympics. Here are our top five London 2012 tactical adverts that didn’t break a single Locog rule:

  1. Yorkshire Gold. When it was announced that the northern county would appear 11th on the Olympics medal table should it be entered as an independent country, Yorkshire Gold released an advert, created by Beattie McGuinness Bungay, that simply read “Yorkshire Gold After Gold After Gold After Gold After Gold. There must be something in the water.”
  2. Specsavers. Brits put their heads in their hands when Olympic officials raised the wrong flag at the first women’s football match between North and South Korea but within days they were being told “they should have gone to specsavers”. The poster showed the two flags followed by the Korean version of their slogan and the English message “(as they might say in North and South Korea)”
  3. Strongbow. Usually known for their adverts containing burly men carrying sofas up flights of stairs, Strongbow used their ‘Earn It’ catchphrase in a clever, unbranded tribute to Usain Bolt. Before the 100m race the adverts featured an image of Bolt’s trademark pose in the company’s signature style with the tagline ‘Earn It’. After the race, and Bolt’s victory, the copy was changed to ‘Earn(ed) It’.
  4. Paddy Power. The Irish bookmakers have had their fair share of fights with Locog about their Olympics advert but after a long battle they won and were able to keep the latest addition to their “We Hear You” marketing campaign. The poster read “Official sponsor of the largest athletics event in London this year! There you go, we said it. (Ahem, London France that is)”.
  5. Nike. Adidas’ rivals ran a fantastic advertising campaign that coincided with the Olympics opening ceremony. The video featured everyday athletes competing in towns and cities called London across the world. They also ran an advert with Paula Radcliffe as soon as she withdrew from London 2012 with injuries.

While most companies went for tactical adverts, Brandalism, a guerilla art project, took the opportunity to find a loophole and challenge the ‘brand police’. They placed this advert on a billboard that had no planning permission and was located next door to the Olympic Village. It contains every banned word, image and phrase listed by Locog.

Have you seen any tactical advertising during the Olympics that could out-do the official marketing campaigns?

Written by Elephant Creative associate Rebecca Hunt