Unordinary Thinking No. 21– Gold Medal Thinking

Readers seem to like it when people fight back.  I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about a story of a small businessman taking on the might of P & G and winning by virtue of his audacity and unordinary thinking.  Thanks for your positive feedback.

More recently, I came across a similar anecdote (courtesy of ‘Have I Got News For You’) but with an even bigger discrepancy between the size of David and Goliath.

The Olympic Games, both as a spectacle and as a brand, long ago ceased to be about competitors simply being the best in their chosen field and participating in an event which is the pinnacle of their careers.  The Olympics are a commercial machine.  With London 2012 forecast to cost anywhere between £9 and £11 billion, private sector funding in the form of sponsors is a hugely important component of this.  And these sponsors, because they are paying very large sums of money for the exclusive right to associate their brand with the Games, want to make sure their investment is protected.  This means they do not want other brands muscling in and compromising their objectives.  This makes sense.

What it means is that, legally and officially, there are defined guidelines and rules about what a business can and cannot do with regard making any type of reference to the 2012 Olympics within their own marketing or business operations.  These guidelines are detailed, specific and enforced with the might of the IOC and Acts of Parliament and apply no matter whether you are a multi-national competitor to the lead sponsors or the lady with a small business on the corner near the site.  Whoever you are, you cannot use the Olympic rings, the number ‘2012’ alongside ‘London’, the mascot, the Latin motto: Citius Altius Fortius….the list goes on and on.

But this post is not about that they whys and wherefores of this.  It is not about whether the IOC has problems with corruption of whether the ‘Zil’ traffic lanes will cause chaos and confusion in the summer.  It’s not even about how many medals Team GB (another term which cannot be used) will win.

It is in fact about how a tiny established business has dealt with being impacted by the biggest travelling show in the world. It is a story of what the owner of Café Olympic in Stratford, on the doorstep of the Games, has done in response to the enforcement order they were served with by the authorities looking after the interests of the Olympics sponsors. This ordered the cafe to change the name of their establishment for the duration of the Games, since it infringed the rule which means the words Olympic’, ‘Olympiad’ or ‘Olympian’ cannot be used.  The owner estimated that it would cost £3000 to alter the name, signage and related material.  Or maybe more to refuse, which would then make a contribution towards the funds to cover the £9-11 billion.

So what does someone do when they are faced with something which would, in all likelihood, force the closure of the business and the loss of their livelihood?

Well it forces them to think differently. Which in turn enables them to create an unexpected solution.

This is what they have done:  they have covered up the ‘O’ on their sign so that the establishment is now called Café Lympic.  Given the location of the Games in the east end of London, the solution gets better if you imagine, in your mind’s voice, how the owner might say it.  Think someone like Bianca in Eastenders and you can see why it is the perfect victory.  Worthy of a Gold medal in fact.

Posted by Ajai Ranawat

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands.

For more information on how we can help you, contact or, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123.  And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris.

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