07 August 2012

Olympic Hurdles on the High Street

A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine forwarded a Daily Mail article detailing the makeover of “tatty” Leyton High Road in East London.  The revitalisation was done in anticipation of the Olympics and the arrival of the torch relay.  These images, from the article, illustrate the transformation:

I won’t elaborate on my reservations about imposing a conservative English village aesthetic on one of London’s most diverse neighbourhoods.  (There's a lot to unpack here!)  Instead, I’d like to focus on the relationships between grooming shopping parades, the presence of corporate brands, and the Olympic trademark.

What I find particularly interesting is how corporate branding is tempered through this revitalisation.  It seems advertising and branding contribute to the so-called “tattiness” of the street.  To spruce things up, the Council evidently clamped down on corporate displays.

The irony here is that with the LOCOG’s tight restrictions on using the Olympic trademark, the only way to show support for the Games is to display the branded material of an official corporate sponsor.  Displays of rings, signage, or even mentions of “London 2012”, are forbidden.  Cadbury and Coca-Cola offer shopkeepers more than enough material to show their Olympic spirit... and sell their products.  Many ad hoc shops in my neighbourhood are using such material, and endorsing official products, to “get behind the games” and stimulate essential sales. 

And, of course, the Union Jack always adds a celebratory feel... its own kind of brand.

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