With global coverage of the world's greatest sporting event bigger than ever, brands have never been keener to be associated with the Olympics. Dave Robertson investigates the strategies of the companies involved from official sponsors to uninvited guests.

With the Olympics just three months away it is not just the world's athletes who are limbering up for the big show-down. Corporate sponsors, who have paid upwards of A$50m to be linked to the Olympics, are gearing up for major advertising pushes to take advantage of their association with the world's biggest sporting event - and their rivals are plotting devious ways to upset them.

The official beer of the Olympics is Carlton United and the range of Fosters and Carlton brands. Only it will be able to use the Olympic rings in its advertising and only it will be able to advertise around the Sydney venues.

But the other Australian brewers are not going to be outgunned. Tooheys has bought a multi-million dollar ad package from Channel 7 - the official Olympic TV channel.

Concerned that its expensive tie-up with the Olympics was going to be sabotaged by Tooheys, Carlton wrote to the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (Socog) to ask it to protect the investment.

Socog is so concerned that its precious sponsors will be usurped it has a team of 60 lawyers battling "ambush marketing". As a result it is likely that Channel 7 will alter the packages so non-sponsors cannot use Olympic footage in their ads.

"Obviously this is a concern," Carlton spokesman David Argus told just-drinks.com. "Ambush marketing will be a problem but through Socog we will get it understood that we have a contract. "Socog is there to protect the sponsors and they have done a damn good job so far but the problem is considerable."

Carlton says it will be using Olympic imagery in its advertising this year but much of its marketing is being linked to sponsorship of less-mainstream Australian athletes who have not picked up big-money deals from other companies.

The issue of ambush marketing was brought into sharp focus at the last Atlanta Olympics when Nike rode on the back of the success of the event by springing billboards across the city leaving many spectators thinking that the company was a sponsor. It also cleverly named a gigantic tent city next to the Atlanta Centennial Park, Nike Town.

But this year the shoe will be on a different foot as Nike has replaced Reebok as an official sponsor so it will now be crying foul wherever it sees rivals trying to ride the Olympic glory. Already companies are jumping onto the Olympic bandwagon. Non-sponsor airline, Qantas, is using two swimmers in its ads. And, in the recent Australian swimming trials Adidas saturated the marketing despite Speedo being the official Olympic sponsor.

BMW has taken an American sprinter to Australia for its latest advertising. Of course this is not overtly using the Olympic theme but official car sponsor Holden (General Motors) cannot be happy that BMW is jumping on its coat tails - after all, this year, athletics and Australia means only one thing: the five rings.

Dave Robertson