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Earlier this week, a fake Audi ad exploded on Reddit making clever use of Audi’s four-ring logo by poking fun at the Olympic rings fail during the opening ceremony in Sochi. We may never know if the ad was a brilliant piece of fan fiction or a cunning marketing ploy, but there are certainly take-away lessons for real-time marketers.
Hypothetically speaking, the Olympic rings are the exclusive property of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which requires interested parties to obtain prior written consent from the committee before reproducing them.
Putting aside for the moment an obvious malfunction of good will, international relations and even brand integrity, if the ad had actually been created and distributed by Audi, the Olympic rings as a trademark symbol – not owned by the Russians – may afford the company a certain degree of First Amendment protection because artistic and editorial parodies of trademarks serve a valuable...