Merchant Innovation

Is Apple Guerilla Marketing At The Olympics?

Is Apple stretching sponsor rules at the Olympics in Rio?

What’s the hottest Olympics-inspired merchandise at this year’s Rio Games?

Well, according to this piece from Reuters, it’s not any of the countless officially licensed Olympic products from any of the formal Olympic sponsors (who can sometimes pay sponsorship fees of up to $100 million over a four-year period for the rights to market products alongside the games) but rather unofficial and unsanctioned special-edition bands for the Apple Watch that Apple is selling exclusively at the nearest Apple Store to the main Olympic park.

The bands do not feature the highly recognizable Olympic rings logo or mention the word “Olympics” anywhere on the product — because that would be a trademark violation by Apple — but they are available for about $93 in the colors of 14 national teams, including the U.S., Canada and Brazil, the host nation of this year’s games.

Despite not being an officially sanctioned Olympic product, Apple’s bands have already proven quiet popular in Rio de Janeiro, both with tourists and Olympic athletes themselves.

Several Olympic athletes, including U.S. sprinter Trayvon Bromell, have already taken to social media to share photos of themselves at the games with their new Apple Watch bands.

Samsung, one of Apple’s biggest competitors in the smartphone market, secured the rights to be the official mobile phone sponsor of the Rio Games and can sell its phones at official Olympic venues.

Most experts agree that Apple’s not breaking any rules with its creative marketing campaign, but it could be pushing the line.

“While they don’t appear to be breaking any rules, they appear to be getting really close to the edge of ambush or guerilla marketing,” Jeff Benz, a former general counsel at the U.S. Olympic Committee, who arbitrates disputes for the international dispute-resolution firm JAMS, told Reuters.

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