Branding rules

A reader has sent me a tweet from Waterstones (the big British chain bookstore) in Oxford St., Mayfair, London:

So, as we can’t say the name of the big sporting event because we’re not a sponsor, we shall call it Voldesport. It which cannot be named!

What’s at issue here are very stringent branding rules about the use of the trademarks of the Olympics: the word Olympics, the interlocked rings, the Olympic torch. Only official sponsors of the games are allowed by law to use these trademarked names and logos in advertising, and the games organizers have been bulldogs in enforcing the rules. They have pursued shops that display versions of the rings — in bagels, doughnuts, flowers, or tissue paper — in honor of the games, as well as non-sponsors who use the words Olympics, Olympic, or Olympian in advertisements. It’s strictly pay to play.

Waterstones have puckishly offered the portmanteau Voldesport (Voldemort + sport) as a replacement.

On Waterstones, from their website:

Waterstones first opened in Old Brompton Road, London, in 1982 and currently trades from nearly 300 shops, on high streets and in shopping centres, and through numerous university campuses in the UK, Republic of Ireland and continental Europe (Brussels and Amsterdam) as well as on the Isle of Man, Jersey and the Isle of Wight.

And on Lord Voldemort, from Wikipedia:

Lord Voldemort … (born Tom Marvolo Riddle) is a fictional character and the main antagonist of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Voldemort first appeared in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which was released in 1997. Voldemort appeared either in person or in flashbacks in each book and film adaptation in the series, except the third, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where he is mentioned.

In the series, Voldemort is the archenemy of Harry Potter, who according to a prophecy has “the power to vanquish the Dark Lord”. Almost no witch or wizard dares to speak his name, instead referring to him by epithets such as “You-Know-Who”, “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” or “the Dark Lord”.

With a note on the pronunciation of the name:

… According to an interview with Rowling, “Voldemort” is pronounced with a silent ‘t’ at the end, as in the French word “mort”, meaning “death”. This was the pronunciation used by Jim Dale in the first four U.S. audiobooks; however, after the release of the film version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in which the characters who dared refer to him by name pronounced it with the “t”, Dale altered his pronunciation to that in the films.

It Which Must Not Be Named. The Dark Sport.

As far as I can tell, no bookstore is an Olympic partner, sponsor, provider, or supplier. Not Waterstones; not W H Smith (“550 stores on the high street and 490 stores at airports, train stations, hospitals and motorway services”, here), though it has a  “dedicated Olympics book section”; not Blackwell’s; and not Foyles. (Dillons was bought out by Waterstones, and Heffer’s in Cambridge maintains the name, but is now a Blackwell’s shop.)


6 Responses to “Branding rules”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    A note: several people have pointed out that the Isle of Wight is indeed in the UK; Waterstones are confused on this point.

  2. Putting a price on London and the Olympics | Fully (sic) Says:

    […] decided that since Olympics is on the list of no-no words they shall instead refer to the event as Voldesport “It which cannot be […]

  3. W Says:

    You know, I really should have clued in before about Voldemort meaning ‘wanting some death’. It’s too darned obvious, and now I feel ashamed.

  4. Jeremy Butterfield Says:

    Nice article. The severity with which the rules have been applied has caused a lot of adverse comment, including, for instance, on the popular BBC radio programme ‘Any Questions’ last week. Chapter 3 of attached link:

  5. So, How do you kill the Dark Lord? « The Blog That Made No Sense Says:

    […] Branding rules ( […]

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