Olympic clearance sale on car stereos? The USOC is not amused

Ambush marketing is a term you're familiar with if you have worked in the world of advertising and sales, but if you've bought a TV at a Super Bowl sale in January, or chips and dip at a hoops-tacular March clearance, consider yourself ambushed.

It's the kind of marketing that gloms onto a popular event, but doesn't pay for the rights to be associated with that popular event. It's already happening with the Vancouver Olympics, and it has the United States Olympic Committee mad. From a press release:

"It is incredibly disappointing to see American companies taking advantage of the spirit of the Olympic Winter Games for their own profit, and at the expense of America's Olympic athletes," USOC chief executive officer Scott Blackmun said. "In the U.S., the USOC would be unable to support America's athletes and send the best prepared U.S. Team to the Olympic Games every two years. It is the financial generosity of these companies that enable U.S. Olympians to reach for their dreams, and in turn, inspire all Americans."

That gets right down to the crux of the problem: money. The USOC, unlike every other national Olympic committee in the world, is not attached to the government. Our tax dollars don't support the Olympic movement.

Instead, the USOC and its dozens of sport-specific national governing bodies are supported by donations and sponsorships. Without sponsorship money -- like the money provided by Visa and Coca-Cola -- it's hard to imagine that the USOC or the NGBs would survive, much less bring home the hundreds of medals that Americans have won in just the past decade.

It may not seem like a big deal for Manny's Pizza World to have an Olympic Rings pizza, but it cheapens the sponsorship for the business that does front the money to the USOC and NGBs. If there is no business advantage in sponsoring the Olympians who will represent us, then we should get used to a lack of medals.

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