One of the great marketing campaigns from the 2012 Olympics didn’t come from an official sponsor. It came from a headphone brand called Beats by Dr. Dre. The Beats brand customized headphones in national colors and then strategically sampled them to athletes. Athletes wore Beats everywhere in the games, particularly in swimming.
This is “ambush marketing”, a marketing strategy where advertisers capitalize on an event without paying a sponsorship fee. In the 1996 Olympics, sprinter Linford Christie famously wore contact lenses embossed with the Puma logo even though Reebok was the official sponsor.
The Olympics cracked down on ambush marketing this year like never before. Branding police looked for violations from small cafes to internet ads. British Parliament even approved a $30,000 penalty to discourage it.