Rogue advertisers eye city marathon

The danger of terrorist attack is not the only threat to this weekend's London Marathon. Organisers said last night that a tight security operation is being planned to stop the event being hijacked by unauthorised advertisers.

Nick Bitel, the marathon's chief executive, said last night that Britain's efforts to stage top international sporting events were being undermined by the lack of legislation against "ambush marketing".

Several international sports companies, including the American sportswear company Nike, are believed to be planning unofficial campaigns to capitalise on this year's marathon, which attracts a television audience in the United Kingdom of 6 million.

Nike yesterday unveiled a new poster in a London-wide campaign aimed to coincide with the marathon. The company said it was "not trying to hijack" the event.

"We are not an official sponsor but around the London Marathon people are very interested in running," its spokes-man, Graham Anderson, said. "It is a high-profile event and all companies with an interest in running will be down there."

Ambush marketing is not illegal. Last year Nike bought up every bus-stop poster site around the course for unofficial advertisements featuring a disabled competitor. It was the latest in a succession of "ambushes" by Nike, a great rival of Asics, the official sponsor of the event.

In a previous year Nike hired a huge advertising billboard at a key site near the Cutty Sark tea clipper in Greenwich, which race organisers then had to obscure from television cameras.

On another occasion, the sports company sought planning permission for a giant inflatable running shoe to be attached to a building overlooking a prime site. Race organisers managed to block the application.

This year, a team of race officials will spend the night before the race patrolling the perimeter and clearing unofficial advertising. The final sweep will be carried out just 20 minutes ahead of the runners. Mr Bitel said: "The marathon is a difficult event to protect because we are not in a clean stadium. It is much easier to ambush an open-air event."

In the next three years, more than 20 world and European sporting championships are due to be staged and the Sports Council recently announced a pounds 3m lottery- funded kitty to help sports governing bodies bring events to Britain.

Mr Bitel, a London lawyer, said: "Sponsorship is absolutely pivotal to your ability to stage events. If you cannot keep your advertisers happy because of the ambushing antics of another company then it will cost you on the bottom line."

He said many major sporting events, such as the Euro 96 football championships, were run on tight budgets and made little direct profit.

Mr Bitel said that ambush marketing was a particular problem in Britain because laws on the subject were weaker than in any comparable country. Victims of ambush marketing in Britain have little legal recourse other than through legislation designed to prevent the "passing off" of one product as another.

The Football Association recently failed to prevent Trebor Bassett, the sweet company, from using England shirts in their promotions during Euro 96. The FA has an arrangement with Snickers, made by Mars.

Mr Bitel would like to see American-style legislation introduced to give event organisers greater protection against ambushing. "They are much stricter in their protection of intellectual property," he said.

Nike's saturation advertising during Euro 96 convinced 23 per cent of the population that they were the official sponsor, when in fact it was Umbro. Some people have been led to think that Britvic are associated with Manchester United after a poster campaign for the Red Card sports drink featuring an Eric Cantona lookalike in a red football shirt with the collar turned up.

American Express has also run several campaigns around the Olympics, which is sponsored by its rival Visa.

Mr Bitel predicted that there could be difficulties in attracting sponsors for the 1999 Rugby World Cup in Britain after Guinness saturated the last Steinlager-sponsored event.

Some companies feel that they get better rewards from sponsoring individuals rather than sporting events.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Freight Forward Senior Operator

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This logistics firm are looking...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map