Monthly Archives: August 2012

Olympic Merchandise: A Five Ring Circus

I received an interesting email a week ago from Jon, a colleague of mine who is the lead SEO expert for my company, Inkblot.  Despite being an American and living in Michigan, he had been trying to order some Team GB Olympic stuff and hadn’t been able to do so.

I was delighted to hear that an American had been so impressed with Team GB that he had decided to buy something.  And to be fair, it has been an awesome performance by the Brits.  55 medals, 25 of them Gold (at the time of writing) is our best performance since 1908.  I’ve personally been glued to the live web feed of the events, and watching on TV when the imbeciles at NBC eventually get around to showing stuff they should have showed live hours earlier.

But I digress.  In short, I’ve never been so proud of my country’s sporting achievements.  So I thought maybe I should buy some Team GB stuff  too.

No problem, I thought, I’ll get it sorted out for both of us.  The fact that (given what he does for a living) he is far more web-savvy than I am should have been a warning about the fact that I was maybe biting off more than I could chew.

I logged onto the Team GB shop.  I clicked on the “Click here to visit the shop link”.  It took me to the TeamUSA shop.  Very odd.

Team GB shop – a ‘Closed Shop’ in the US.

TeamUSA shop doesn’t sell Team GB

OK, so I guessed it had diverted based on my IP address, so I’d have to order the old fashioned way, by phone.  So I called.  I said what I wanted.  They asked where I lived.  I said America.  They said they couldn’t ship overseas and suggested I try the TeamUSA shop.  I said I wanted Team GB stuff.  After a long chat they took my number and said an administrator would call back.  Of course, nobody called back.

I then emailed a friend, a Brit who lives in Australia, and asked whether he had tried to order anything.  He said he hadn’t, but I guess he was proud of Team GB too and 12 hours later he sent me an email of his receipt for his purchases…from the Team GB shop.

I clicked on the links shown in the receipt for the products he had bought.  The links took me to TeamUSA.  Sigh.

So I tried calling the number shown on the receipt.  When I told them I lived in the USA they said they couldn’t sell to people outside the UK.  So I told them I had a receipt from a friend who had bought merchandise from them with an Australian shipping and billing address.

This stopped them in their tracks and I was asked to hold, at which point I heard a lot of confused sounding mumbling at the other end of the line.  Eventually, someone came back and said that at the insistence of TeamUSA, they were not allowed to sell British Olympic merchandise to customers in the US, and that US customers had to buy from the Team USA website.  I asked if maybe it was something to do with Australia being a Commonwealth country, and was told “Yeah, that’s probably it, sorry there’s nothing we can do”.

I already knew that the TeamUSA site didn’t sell Team GB merchandise, but for shits and giggles I decided to call them anyway and ask why they had insisted on this arrangement, which effectively locked out British customers who live in the US but want Team GB stuff.  To my surprise, I was told that it had been at the insistence of the “folks in Britain”.

The BOA offices on Charlotte Street, just down the road from where I used to work

Confused, I called the British Olympic Association in London.  I was told that I should try buying from the Adidas site.  They gave me a URL.  Of course, my IP diverts me to the US Adidas site (where there is no Team GB stuff) and if I force it to go to the British equivalent (where there is Team GB stuff) it won’t let me use the shopping cart since I’m in the US.  I left a voicemail for a lady called Laura in the BOA Press Office and am waiting to hear back, but not with much hope if I’m honest.

All of which leads me to the following conclusion:  WTH?

I fully appreciate that international merchandizing agreements have to be put in place for this sort of thing, but someone has dropped the ball here and it pisses me off.

The story I have been given at one point of contact is immediately called into question by the next person I speak to.  After several days online and on the phone I’m still no closer to getting a Team GB t-shirt, a Team GB mug and the now ubiquitous Team GB scarf that the official Team GB twitter feed is constantly encouraging all us Brits to wave.

No t-shirt. No scarf. Not even a coffee mug so I can wash the sour taste away…

It would appear that in setting this up, the BOA, or the IOC, or someone else has assumed that there is no such thing as a British expat who, despite living abroad, continues to be a fan of Team GB.

Or perhaps that if they do live abroad it is inconceivable that they live outside a Commonwealth country like Australia.

I am now in the worrying position of having to email my friend back and confess that despite all my bluster about “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll get it for you” and a week of straining every nerve and sinew, I am unable to order a single Team GB memento.

He will laugh long and loud and say “I told you, dude”.  This is going to be a humbling experience.


Posted by on August 10, 2012 in Marketing, Merchandise


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