Dr. Dre's 'Beats By Dre' Marketing Raises Olympic Ire
With appropriate understanding and respect to Olympic principles, the International Olympic Community's position dealing with social media and athlete sponsorships needs reconsideration.
Dr. Dre has once more made powerful enemies, E! Online reports - and this time, not even ones who'd see him put in a casket. The legendary rapper and producer meant perfectly well sending British Olympians customized models of his signature Beats headphones bearing the Union Jack.
Well, that's the road to Hell for you: nothing but good intentions, that.
The IOC is looking into available actions to take against Dre over what officials consider a stealth marketing end-run around limits upon marketing and sponsorships, following Yahoo Sports reports of British athletes wearing the headphones out and about at Monday's synchronized platform diving competition and a British soccer match, among other events.
"If there is a blatant attempt at ambush marketing or by a group of people with commercial views, then of course we will intervene," IOC President Jacque Rogge told media before the Games opened.
This herding of cats amounts to the IOC covering their asses from official Games sponsors' potential conniptions - of course, not that those fits would be entirely unwarranted. Certain partners - most relevant here, Panasonic - fork over millions for the brand awareness and visibility the Games afford.
Organizers reportedly already cracked down when British soccer goalkeeper Jack Butlandand and tennis competitor Laura Robson, pimped the audio accessories via some appreciative tweets.
So let's get this hypocritical nunf**kery completely straight. I'm not completely sure I'm not missing something here.
The whole concept of the Olympic Games means to bring together the world's greatest athletes. In some lucrative sports that are made a part of Olympic competition - such as basketball or tennis during the Summer Olympics, or hockey in the winter games - the worthy premiere athletes representing their respective native lands' flags have virtually bottomless resources to train themselves to peak conditioning to represent their countries.
That being said, such is not the case with every Olympic sport. Dre's gifted Beats amount to freebies that provided no monetary gain to the athletes themselves, there's a principle at play here merits debate: the IOC can jealously guard its sponsors' banners all they like, but the athletes who make the Games so compelling can't do the same - even in instances when its sponsors' dollars who can punch a talented-but-resource-poor athlete in a minor sport's Olympic ticket.
In some lower-profile sports' cases, some athletes might be much more hard-pressed to scavenge the resources to train to a level on par with the world's greatest sportsmen if they had to do so without the assistance of sponsors much harder to come by in fields that lack the high profile or worldwide interest of basketball or hockey.
Face facts, folks: not every swimmer is Michael Phelps. In a sense, he is to swimming what Bob Marley was to reggae, or The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin were to professional wrestling: when he retires from Olympic competition - as reportedly means to after these games - swimming won't (pardon the pun) dry up as a sport entirely; but like reggae post-Marley or wrestling post-Rock/Austin, the Olympics will have lost that sport's iconic figure, and the IOC can expect the public's fascination to take at least some measurable hit.
He's parlayed that unique status into lucrative sponsorships. Sadly, the world doesn't care about every individual swimmer the way it reveres Phelps. Others haven't the notoriety to trade off.
But as the IOC cracks down on athletes using social media to satisfy the sponsors without whom some of the world's true most-gifted athletes couldn't have competed - and lest we forget, it's the athletes the games truly celebrate - the IOC will go to lengths to quash quieter, lower-key marketing by the athletes to protect the committee's interests.
Maybe a hands-off approach to this issue is an idea whose time has come. The IOC's interests are understandable, but headphones? Really? That's a level of pettiness previously inhabited solely by the NCAA. Besides, behold how many professional athletes have permeated an athletic event once upon a time long ago largely restricted to amateurs. In several professional sports, individual athletes line up against one another all the time bearing various logos other than a league's official sponsors. If we're to let pros compete in the Olympics, why not also assume degrees of their business rules of engagement?
Just as importantly, it's time for a realistic assessment of social media. Twitter is here, and it's not leaving. For a committee so savvy with manipulating visibility and generating palpable excitement, it seems both hypocritical and counter-productive to lash out at a fluid platform that engages Olympic enthusiasts with the athletes, and by extension, the Games. It takes delusion on a grand scale to believe there's a dam can be built that will stymie the tide of social media for all times.
Something's gotta give. Bet you a pair of Beats that - sooner, not later - it's the IOC.
The 2012 Summer Olympics