Sochi Olympic branding in the pirates eye

Aeroflot has signed a $100 million sponsorship deal with the organisers of the Sochi 2014 Olympics, giving it access to the newly unveiled winter games logo, but less honest businesses are also cashing in.

Like it or loathe it. The creativity and artistic value may be debateable, but the financial value is not. The branding centrepiece of Sochi 2014 represents a cut of every T-shirt, flag, souvenir, piece of signage, and broadcast it will carry between now and the closing ceremony, with Aeroflot only one of numerous players looking to have it as part of their marketing.

Sochi 2014. ru was developed by American company, Interbrand. The world leader in branding it was chosen by Russian officials to maximise the brand value of the Sochi games. But Russian brand companies feel they could have handled the assignment just as well, according to Aleksandr Eremenko, Managing Director, at Brandlab Russia

“The Olympic games are not the kind of event that requires additional promotion. It’s speaks for itself. Interbrand both creates the brand then evaluates its worth. The agency provides complex services, including working with the sponsors.”

The counterfeit market is already in full swing, with T-shirts, Vodka, dumplings and even a mutual fund called Sochi 2014 already appearing in Russia. That's even before the first piece of official merchandise was handed over to President Medvedev.

Russia is trying hard to increase intellectual property protection from piracy as part of its bid to join the WTO. While it may be possible to catch the bank cashing in on Sochi with a mutual fund, the fake souvenir makers are an awful lot harder to find according to Konstantin Astafiev, Senior attorney, Dispute Resolution practice, at legal firm Vegas Lex.

“Since the beginning of 2009, there have been more than 200 incidents where the Olympic logo has been used without permission, mainly in the Krasnodar region. People coming to Sochi want to buy t-shirts, swimming suits and other goods emblazoned with the Olympic rings. All the rights to the symbol belong to the Olympic committee and its representatives in Russia.”

There are still four years to go till the games in Sochi and the fight to keep control of the brand and image rights will only intensify, especially once the official character is revealed in April next year.