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How do you police your brand?

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How do you police your brand?

The Rio 2016 Olympics officially start tomorrow, but brands that are non-official sponsors need to pay special attention to avoid falling foul of Olympic brand restrictions.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) Rule 40 prevents athletes from appearing in non-official sponsor advertisements just before, during and just after the games, although there are some exemptions.

This means if an athlete’s sponsor isn’t an official games sponsor they can’t even publicly mention the athlete’s name in marketing communications if they directly refer to the Olympics. They also can’t use terms such as Olympic or Olympics in marketing communications.

The same applies for athletes, who technically can’t even send a ‘thank you’ message to their sponsor in public on social media if the brand isn’t an official games sponsor.

The intellectual property rights of the Olympic symbol, flag, motto, anthem and other identifications belonging to the IOC and brands aren’t allowed to use them without official permission from the IOC. You can read the Olympic brand restrictions in full here.

While not everyone agrees with these restrictions they are an example of the work big brands undertake to protect their intellectual property and their brand identities.

If you have a well-known brand that you allow selected partners to use, for example for joint marketing activities, it’s worth considering whether you have brand guidelines in place to police the application of your brand.

Also known as style guides, brand guidelines are a set of rules that are used to consistently apply a brand identity when designing any kind of marketing materials.

They cover key elements of your brand identity such as logo use including spacing, font types and colour themes, as well as specific advice for various applications of your brand such as on signage or vehicles.

If you’re looking for some examples of style guides for inspiration here’s a selection of those available online.



Boy Scouts of America:

Destination Canada:



Red Cross:

Thomas Design has extensive experience of creating brand guidelines for a range of businesses. To discuss how we can develop guidelines to consistently apply your brand call us on 01792 825624 or email

Date: 04.08.16

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