Anthony Hilton: Sorry, but Olympic sponsors are on the wrong track...

The commercialisation of the Olympic Games and the heavy-handed policing of the Olympic "brand" by the organisers and their lawyers may in later years become a case study in how not to do it. It is hard to believe the McDonald's image is improved by insisting that it be the only provider of chips in the park. It is even less likely Visa will benefit from its insistence only its cards can be used.

The idea of sponsorship is surely that the image of the brand is enhanced because it is associated with something as uplifting as sport at its best, not that it seeks to drag sporting events down to the grasping commercial reality of everyday life.

A further irony is that while the brand police are clamping down on greengrocers who have had the temerity to arrange their fruit and veg as a display of Olympic rings, the competitors themselves are running riot on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, apparently with impunity, endorsing what they like and passing on pretty blatant messages from their own sponsors.

Research suggests that very few commercial messages on Twitter or Facebook have impact because they are not why people tune into those services. That, however, is not the point. It is refreshing to see the heavy-handed outflanked.

A further intriguing aspect to the Games is the steady stream of tickets for the choicest events that has come on sale in recent weeks when they were like gold dust when the British public was asked to apply last year.

One explanation is that they are unsold tickets being returned from overseas. But rumour has it a lot of companies and sponsors have got jittery after the flak that followed photos of Barclays executives in a box at Lords during the Libor scandal, and have quietly scaled back or abandoned plans to use the tickets for corporate hospitality.

Purists might say the recently passed Bribery Act is taking its toll. More likely, however, is that chief executives just don't want to be photographed swilling champagne and enjoying the good life when there is supposed to be a recession on. Would you if you were an executive at Lloyds Bank?

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