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The Olympic Games maintains stringent standards, not just about which athletes are qualified to compete, but also with regard to advertising messages: No sponsors may post their advertisements within any Olympic venues. But when BMW agreed to a $63 million sponsorship package, it also volunteered to provide the vehicles used to transport track and field equipment. And those vehicles, designed to mimic the familiar and iconic look of its Mini brand, offer a not-so-subtle form of marketing all around the track.

The Mini vehicles that cart around the javelins, discuses, shot puts, and high jump poles are literally miniaturized. The remote-controlled cars feature the phrase, “It’s a MINI adventure,” though without any logos or explicit mention of the brand. In this sense, they are not violating the rules against any “commercial installations and advertisings signs” in the stadiums where Olympic events take place.

However, the shape of the cars clearly brings to mind the Mini brand. The car company chose to develop its remote-controlled units in this specific shape, and it expressed pleasure with the outcomes. In particular, the global television coverage of the track and field events often focuses on the fun-looking, clever little transport vehicles. Viewers around the world thus are being constantly reminded of the brand and its reputation for fun.

Discussion Questions

  1. What benefits does the use of Minis at the Olympics offer?
  2. Are BMW’s marketing efforts at the Olympics ethical?

Source: Emma Hall, “BMW Gets Brand into Olympic Stadium with Mini Minis,” Ad Age, August 9, 2012