Advocacy, education and outreach in support of Vancouver's public spaces

By vancouverpublicspace

February 9, 2010 at 10:53 PM

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Olympic sponsors brand buildings

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One of the biggest visual changes brought about by the Olympics? Corporate murals and signage.

The changes are the end result of a package of commitments made by the Olympic bid partners (including the Province and City) to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in order to secure the Games. The commitments promised, in essence, a series of favourable marketing opportunities for the corporate sponsors that would be investing in the 2010 project – favourable, here, meaning big visual wallop combined with messaging exclusivity. Goodbye Cola wars, hello Coca-collosal.

The commitments were then set into regulatory motion late last year and early in 2010 when City Council rolled out a number of amendments to existing bylaws and controls (even requesting changes to the Vancouver Charter itself). In many cases, these changes suspended normal governance practices for the period of the 2010 Games.

And the murals? One set of changes was made to the Sign Bylaw – the tool through which City licensing officers and bylaw enforcement folks regulate the size, materials, placement and related details of almost any sort of sign that you can find in the city.

The result? The following are a few examples of what’s been installed throughout the city.

One of the biggest appears to be the 14-story building wrap at the TD tower (Georgia and Howe):

Another prominent mural ad covers off on the host province tourism message:

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Some, like the Canadian Flag installed at the Hotel Georgia tap into the nationalist spirit, others, such as the murals wrapping Hudson’s Bay, or Canada Post (see below) feature prominent shots of the athletes, with corporate logos comprising a small part of the overall sign.

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Here’s another one at the corner of Burrard and Hastings:

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Incidentally, the massive signs and murals which now dot the downtown core are part of a one-two branding punch that saw VANOC purchase every available outdoor advertising surface in the region, billboards, bus shelters and more. All, ostensibly, under the International Olympic Committees request to protect Olympic sponsors from “ambush” marketing.

Thus, for the period of the Games, we have a reshaping of the branding iconography found in the Vancouver cityscape. On one hand the breadth of messages has shrunk considerably (only sponsor ‘voices’ can be heard), while on the other, the sheer size of these sponsor messages has grown on an Olympian scale.

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