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Shampoo, Tampons and the Olympics

As everyone knows Britain is hosting the Olympics this summer. As anyone who has paid any attention knows, the Olympics is thoroughly commercialised and all commercial interests are protected by a complex and impressive legal web. Of course, the companies and multi-national corporations that pay for the exclusive rights to the Olympics contribute financially to the event, though it should be noted that cost estimates for the Games have ranged from £12 billion to £24 billion, most of  which will be met by the taxpayers (apparently the higher estimates include the security costs while the lower ones do not). Nonetheless, make no mistake, exclusivity is important, expensive and protected by the full weight of the law. For example, the only beer you will be able to drink at Olympic grounds will be Heineken, and a pint will cost you £7.00! (The average price of a pint of beer in Britain is £3.17.) Heineken paid for its exclusive rights to the Games, and so will you if you want a beer.

Economics aside, however, I enjoy watching how companies have created convoluted narratives for TV adverts suggesting their various products are actually relevant to the Olympics. A major shampoo company has a TV ad with a leading US swimmer, who won numerous gold medals in Beijing, taking a shower and telling us that using this particular shampoo clears his head which enables him to win gold medals. If this shampoo can win gold for him, what can it do for me?! Hell, my shampoo has never won a gold medal for anyone!! A company pushing dishwashing liquid urges us to buy the now available limited edition of its product. “Limited edition” means the liquid comes in a gold coloured container rather than in the normal white container. I want one! It’s a limited edition and its associated with the Olympics! I’m sure the golden container will be worth a bundle on eBay. One of the most entertaining ads shows a female athlete running towards the high jump bar only to be stopped by “Mother Nature” lying in the landing area telling her she can’t compete. But no! The woman is using a particular tampon, to the dismay of Mother Nature. We next see the Olympic winner raising her arms behind the high bar, while a voiceover implies this particular tampon assure gold medals, which obviously other tampons do not (any more than any old shampoo can clear your head for competition).

The ads are stupid but nonetheless entertaining in their absurdity. I can’t imagine anyone will actually change shampoos, tampons or washing-up liquid based on the nonsensical and forced link between the product and the sporting event. However, I must assume that the positive association of a product with the Olympics (no matter how unlikely and unnatural that link) is worth the expense of buying exclusive rights. And I’m sure people are getting rich through all these sponsorships and legal protections (people actually get paid well for the ad concepts mentioned above).

Interestingly, in what seems like an anti-promotion, VISA has announced that cash machines in and near Olympic events will be shut down and that VISA will provide  its own machines. If you don’t have a VISA card or a cash card, however, you’re out of luck. You won’t be able to use your Master or American Express cards in a VISA machine. VISA is actually making it more difficult for people to get cash, so if you don’t have a VISA card and run low on cash, you know who to blame. It’s one thing to suggest that buying a particular shampoo or tampon will make you a winner, but quite another for a company to announce it is going to make your life more difficult in order to protect its exclusive rights. And let’s face it, hardly any of us associate cash machines with a particular brand, that is until now. Now we know that cash machines with the VISA brand may be of no use to us.

Copyright © 2012 Dale Rominger

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