During the lead-up to the Vancouver Winter Games, ambush marketing from non-Olympic sponsors was such a concern that the city passed a temporary bylaw to protect the exclusivity rights of official 2010 partners.
Fast-forward 16 months, and Vancouver is once again drawing tens of thousands of people to its downtown core, this time courtesy of the Canucks' run in the Stanley Cup final. But the scene is much different in 2011 - businesses do not appear the least bit shy about splashing official logos everywhere.
Lululemon Athletica Inc., the Vancouver-based yoga apparel chain, doesn't sell Canuck merchandise in its stores. But stroll past its Robson Street location and you'll spy a display featuring team photos, flags and even a mini Stanley Cup.
"We're simply demonstrating our support of our hometown team," said Jennifer Neziol, a company spokeswoman.
It's not the first time Lululemon has shown its support for a major sporting event. It ran afoul of the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee before the Games when it released a clothing line called "Cool Sporting Event That Takes Place in British Columbia Between 2009 & 2011 Edition." Lululemon had earlier lost out in its bid to be an official Olympic sponsor.
But the company is far from alone in showing its support. Restaurants, camera stores, optometrists - downtown establishments of all stripes have Canucks pennants, signs or foam fingers on display.
While those businesses don't sell items that could damage the hockey team's bottom line, others do.
Cherry Bomb, a clothing store in the Granville entertainment strip, where fans flock after wins, has Canucks-related T-shirts for sale. However, the shirts smartly do not feature official logos or trademarks. One says "I support the twins" without any mention of the Sedin brothers, Vancouver's front-line stars. Another lists the first names of key Canucks - but nothing else.
Red Bull, the energy drink maker, also appears to be getting in on the ambush marketing act. Before an earlier finals game, a Red Bull car was parked half a block from Rogers Arena, where the Canucks play their home games. A young woman handed out free cans of the energy drink to a crowd of mostly young males.
Although a local car dealership has complained the NHL asked it to take down official Canucks logos, the team itself has shown a great deal of restraint, marketing experts said.
For that, University of British Columbia professor Ann Stone said, it should be applauded.
"The buzz in the city is just insane. It's just this wonderful, pulsating heartbeat of the city. And they're not cracking down on people using their logo, and I personally think that's incredibly smart," said Ms. Stone, who teaches in the university's Sauder School of Business.
"I think it's brilliant local marketing. They are letting the local community own the Canucks."
Another local yoga company, Eoin Finn Yoga and Blissology, is selling a T-shirt that looks very similar to that of the Canucks' logo. It features a white surfboard on a blue background.
The Magic Touch Hair and Nail Spa is offering free Canucks nail designs for anyone getting a manicure or pedicure.
Lindsay Meredith, a marketing professor at Simon Fraser University, said it's clear why companies want to be involved with the Canucks right now - everyone loves a winner.
"It doesn't matter whether they're even remotely linked or related to hockey in any way. It's come to the point that it's the rallying cry of the tribe - everybody's got [the Canucks logo]out there now."
In an e-mail statement, Canucks Sports and Entertainment said it embraces the tremendous fan support and civic pride the team has generated.
"The Canucks and the NHL also respect the importance of exclusivity and corporate partnerships. In doing so, local businesses seeking to generate an unauthorized promotional association with Canucks Sports & Entertainment will be notified of any violations. Unauthorized activities may take the form of ticket and merchandise giveaways, themed events and storefront signage and displays that are so extensive and/or sophisticated that they create the false impression there is a commercial relationship between CS&E and the business owner."
The statement did not explain what would make a display extensive or sophisticated enough to create that impression.