The London Olympics has seen the first case of ambush marketing thanks to rapper Dr. Dre.
Dr. Dre’s popular Beats headphones made an appearance at the Games Monday when company representatives handed out free headphones bearing the Union Jack to a number of British athletes, including diver Tom Daley. Headphones, and Beats in particular, are ubiquitous among athletes who use them to block out noise in order to concentrate, or avoid pesky questions from reporters. Michael Phelps and others including LeBron James have been seen regularly wearing them.
On Monday Jack Butland, a goalkeeper for the British soccer team, tweeted: “Love my GB Beats by Dre.”
The International Olympic Organization has strict rules about non-sponsors trying to crash the Games and the move by Dr. Dre won’t sit well with Panasonic, the official Olympic sponsor.
Before the London Olympics began, organizers hinted that people wearing Pepsi T-Shirts would be asked to take off the offending gear because Coca Cola is an Olympic sponsor. Organizers later said they would not stop individuals from wearing Pepsi shirts, but said they would block groups from entering the Games with non-approved apparel.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams said he wasn’t aware of the Beats issue and added that interpretation of the IOC rule, called Rule 40, is tricky.
“There is a lot of discussion about what Rule 40 does and does not do, but I am happy to have a look at that evidence,” he told reporters Tuesday.
The headphone issue wasn’t the only violation of IOC rules Monday. Australian boxer Damien Hooper got a reprimand for wearing a T-shirt bearing an aboriginal flag, a violation of the IOC’s Rule 50. That rule is designed to combat propaganda and it bans athletes from displaying any image not approved by the organization. Violations can lead to expulsion from the Games. Hooper, who has a number of tattoos bearing the Kamilaroi and Manandangi heritage of his mother, said he wore the shirt for extra motivation. He was reprimanded by Australian Olympic officials and apologized. Adams said the IOC was pleased that Australian officials took action.
“I understand they are dealing with it; we are very happy with the way they are dealing with it,” he said.