Why even sausage rings are put on the chopping block.
LONDON — When London was awarded the 2012 Summer Games, Dennis Spurr got into the spirit at his butcher shop. He put a sign outside, featuring the five Olympic rings made of sausages.
Eventually, the Olympic marketing police showed up. Remove the sign, Spurr was told. His store in Weymouth, England, where sailing will be held, was not an official sponsor. A law governing the use of Olympic words and images was being violated. He faced a fine up to $30,000 for referring to the Games using kielbasa, blood pudding or any of the more adventurous organ meats.
The sign came down. Then another one went up, featuring five squares made of sausages. The Olympic brand police came back. More legal action was threatened.
"They're called Olympic rings, not Olympic squares," Spurr retorted. The Olympic police were not amused. The sausage sign came down again.
"A civil rights group from Canada said they'd pay all my bills," Spurr, 59, said by phone. "I didn't want to cause trouble. Everyone is so serious. I'm just trying to celebrate the Olympics. I don't think the sign helped me sell one more pound of sausage."
The sausage case has come to symbolize the imperious way in which London organizers have attempted to protect the Olympic brand from ambush marketing. Until an outcry ensued, workers preparing for the opening and closing ceremonies could eat fish and chips but not sausage and chips or burgers and chips or just plain chips, unless they were served by McDonald's, which holds exclusive French fry rights at the Olympic stadiums.
Even the parents of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, and their party supply company came under scrutiny. According to news reports, organizers asked for amendments to a Web site that featured an Olympic torch and a woman throwing a javelin under the headline "Let the Games Begin." Much to everyone's relief, the Union Jack Essential Party Kit passed muster.
"I can imagine the Queen intervening to post bail," said Michael Payne, a former marketing director for the International Olympic Committee.
The Middletons got off lightly compared with the cafe in Plymouth, England, that was forced to quit serving its flaming torch baguette. The House Cafe in south London was ordered to remove interlocking Olympic rings made from bagels. And La Rose Florists in Stoke-on-Trent also had to dismantle affronting rings fashioned from tissue paper.
"We thought it was a joke," Christie Marshall, 21, a worker at the florist shop, said of the order to cease and desist. "It's crazy. But it's their loss, not ours."
Sebastian Coe, the chief Olympic organizer, set off a stir in a radio interview last Friday, saying that spectators probably would not be allowed into stadiums wearing Pepsi T-shirts, given that Coke was the official soft-drink sponsor. One reader wrote to The Telegraph of London, suggesting, "Everyone should just turn up naked, claiming, 'We weren't sure of the guidelines,' and see what happens."
Clarifications followed, along with ridicule. Individuals could wear what they wanted, as long as there was no group attempt to undermine the Olympic sponsors, organizers said. Jacques Rogge, the president of the I.O.C., assured that "common sense would prevail."
The policing of marketing scofflaws stems from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, which have come to be defined by their commercial excess and an infamous ambush marketing campaign by Nike, which was not an official sponsor.
"All this was designed to do was stop a major brand from getting a free ride and keep a city from turning the streets into a third world flea market," Payne said. "It wasn't intended to stop the local sausage maker from putting homemade sausages in rings."
Payne, who is no longer with the I.O.C., devised the current Olympic marketing program, whereby 11 multinational corporations pay about $100 million each over a four-year period. Given that corporate sponsorships account for more than 40 percent of Olympic revenue, the I.O.C. and London Olympic organizers have a vested interested in protecting their sponsors, Payne said.
But when the ambush marketing rules are applied overzealously, Payne said: "It's backlashing to the sponsors. People want to know, why are they being so suffocating and strict?"
Competitors, too, face restrictions. Michael Phelps wrote on Twitter last week that swimmers can no longer wear emblems of national flags on both sides of their swimming caps. He supplied photographs of his new cap, featuring the United States flag and his name on one side and a small logo for Speedo on the other.
"Smh," Phelps wrote, meaning shaking my head.
Athletes are also prohibited from posting on Twitter about sponsors that are not affiliated with the Olympics. And if an American runner wins a race in shoes sponsored by say, Adidas, he still must
wear Nikes on the victory stand because Nike is the official supplier of the United States medal podium uniform. BP is also a corporate partner of the United States Olympic Committee, perhaps becoming the first official oil spill sponsor of the Summer Games.
At the recent European soccer championships, Nicklas Bendtner of Denmark revealed underwear bearing the logo of a betting firm and was fined $120,000 for this ambush marketing stunt. No one is quite sure what would happen with a similar display at the Olympics. Technically, it could result in a loss of the right to compete.
At his butcher shop in Weymouth, Spurr is in no danger of losing his right to make sausage. But he is again thumbing his nose at the Olympic marketing police with another sign, this one featuring five frying pans.
"So far so good," Spurr said. He is also handing out plastic medals. If the marketing police return, well, any publicity is good publicity.
"We've got some handcuffs," he said. "It would make nice pictures