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Local brewery opens fight
Salt Lake Olympic officials target ambush marketers
Posted: Friday August 07, 1998 10:42 AM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Guardians of the 2002 Winter Olympics trademarks have launched a campaign warning businesses that use of the familiar rings or other logos won't be tolerated.
The announcement Thursday by a senior United States Olympic Committee official comes amid a standoff with a local brewery that has called itself the “unofficial beer” of the 2002 Games.
While Wasatch Brewery is hardly a competitive threat to official beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch, Olympic sponsors aren't amused by the local company's cavalier attitude toward what they say is illegal.
”It's cheating, pure and simple,” USOC deputy secretary general John Krimsky said.
Krimsky, who also heads the USOC's marketing arm, said he is launching a campaign to educate Utah consumers and businesses about “ambush” marketing by companies that want to profit off the Olympics without helping finance the billion-dollar event.
Those companies violate federal and local trademark and licensing laws and dilute the value of an Olympic sponsorship, he said. Anheuser-Busch paid more than $50 million to sponsor the Olympics.
Krimsky said it is his job to protect that investment, 70 percent of which goes to fund the Olympics and support the athletes.
While Krimsky said ambush marketing schemes become more sophisticated every Olympics, the sole agitator to surface so far for 2002 is Wasatch Brewery.
Olympics organizers are attempting to stop the brewery's owner, Schirf Brewing Co., from displaying the phrase “Wasatch Beers. The Unofficial Beer, 2002 Winter Games” on one of its trucks.
Schirf has been warned by Salt Lake Organizing Committee lawyers that “all commercial uses of words relating to the Olympic Games, including indirect references,” belong to the USOC and must be removed.
Brewery owner and founder Greg Schirf said he isn't budging.
He said the Olympics organizers are taking themselves too seriously by claiming ownership of the words “Games” and “2002.”
“Our contention is we were careful not to use the word Olympics,” Schirf said. “No one has claim on 2002 and everyone uses the word games.”
Schirf is pushing the controversy a step further by marketing a beer labeled “Wasatch Unofficial 2002 Amber Ale.”
The USOC hopes to enlist the public in its fight with print advertisements that ask readers, “How do you feel about cheating in the Olympic Games?”
The ads are designed so the name of a company can be inserted along with a telephone number readers can call to express their displeasure.
Schirf claims he already has the public backing him.
He said the delivery truck branded with the slogan elicits honks and waves, while the company offices continue to receive e-mail and phone calls encouraging them not to back down.
Schirf doesn't know how long he can continue to afford to fight Olympic organizers. But he revealed what could make him cave in to organizers.
”We don't want to make a deal. We just want to have some fun,” he said. “The only way we will acquiesce is if they make us drink Budweiser.”
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