You're UVEX Sports. You're a successful company that makes helmets and eyewear for outdoor sports like skiing and biking. In fact, you make the ski goggles that U.S. World Cup champ Lindsey Vonn wears on the hill.
Then last week, following an eye-catching Sports Illustrated cover photo and plenty of hype and buildup, Vonn lives up to her expectations in Vancouver, winning an Olympic gold medal in the downhill and another bronze in the super-G.
Huzzah for you and your company! When Vonn crosses the finish line and skids to a stop, raises her hands in the air in triumph and then removes her goggles from her eyes and places them on the top of her helmet, they're your goggles she's removing. Vonn's performances — not to mention her blonde locks, good looks and mass appeal — result in loads of photos and videos of your goggles (with your name scrawled across them) making their way around the world, giving you loads of publicity.
And, of course — given that you give Vonn her gear for free and that you probably even pay her to use and, thereby, endorse your equipment — you want to do what you can to capitalize on the situation.
So after her Olympic triumphs, you mention on your Web site that she's one of your athletes, that your company sponsors her, and you post a nice photo of Vonn wearing your gear. You don't exactly take credit for her winning — you know, that your equipment made the difference between podium and also-ran — but hey, you rightfully celebrate that you supported her, both literally and figuratively, from the get-go. Hooray for both of you. Everybody wins.
But then the International Olympic Committee's intellectual-property attorney contacts you in a huff. No, she says, during the Olympics, it's against IOC regulations to post such sponsorship mentions on your Web site because — get this — you're stealing the IOC's intellectual property.
"Really?" you ask your in-house counsel. "Sadly, they're right," he/she/they respond[s]. The IOC is incredibly protective of everything from its athletes to its rings, and during the Games, it's within their rights to shut down other companies' uses of "their property."
Of course, as the offbeat Web site Boing Boing points out, a complaint like this from the IOC typically would be intended to prevent the company's name or its property from being "tarnished." It's ironic, the site says, because "it's hard to imagine how one could tarnish the IOC's reputation any further, between the naked greed, the unchecked bullying, the corruption and bribery, the doping, and the censorship. Oh, and the thousands of poor people inevitably evicted whenever the Olympics come to town. Is there any way the IOC's reputation could sink lower?"
But never mind that, you say. You have a company to run. How can UVEX make light of an already ridiculous situation?
Why, by responding to the IOC in verse, of course! In an eight-stanza poem entitled "Blonde we like wins Downhill," UVEX takes the IOC and its rules to task, while offering up its congratulations to a skier whose "last name rhymes with the German city of Bonn," without violating any of the Olympic guidelines.
Way to go, UVEX. I'm sure Vonn would thank you for your support … if doing so wouldn't get her thrown out of Vancouver.
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