This week, Vancouver brand giant Lululemon Athletica got media-spanked by VANOC for creating and selling a clothing line that’s named “Cool Sporting Event That Takes Place in British Columbia Between 2009 & 2011 Edition.” The line features red mittens, hoodies and toques that all look sort-of familiar. But not really. It’s an interesting ploy, from a company that has used a lot of larger-than-life tactics (remember the whole show-up-nude-and-get-a-free-outfit promotion?) but it brings up some interesting questions about how dangerous this kind of rogue brand behaviour can be. Has Lulu crossed a line?
According to VANOC they sure have. In a Canada.com article, Bill Cooper, the director of commercial rights management, had this to say: “We expected better sportsmanship from a local Canadian company than to produce a clothing line that attempts to profit from the Games but doesn’t support the Games or the success of the Canadian Olympic team,” he fumed.
It’ll be interesting to see what consumers have to say about the whole thing. My money is on Lulu. I bet they have line-ups and sell-outs, just because the 2010 folk have been so freakin’ anal-retentive about brand control. I get it – I know WHY they are being so careful – but trying to control a brand in this new out-of-control branding and marketing environment seems pointless and futile. Better to find ways to roll with the punches, laugh at yourself a bit, and encourage creativity. Call me a party-pooper, but there’s no way I’m wearing official Olympic gear, at least not this year (maybe next year after it’s retro-cool?). However I am sorely tempted to pony up for some mitts and support Lululemon for actually doing what we are all just thinking about; finding an ironic way to acknowledge the games without dressing up like the official mascots Quatchi, Sumi, Miga and Muk Muk.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the public will rise up in disgust and boycott the yoga clothier for daring to cross the line and having some fun other than the fun that the VANOC people want us to have. Maybe this attempt to hijack the brand will backfire, and leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, permanently damaging the Lululemon brand and alienating their legions of very bendy followers?
I don’t think I’m wrong. But I could be. Either way, it’s a very gutsy move by the Lulus. Bravo for doing something different!