Star sprinter Usain Bolt may be the talk of the track at the London Olympics.
But those bright yellow shoes worn by so many athletes have also turned plenty of heads.
Some people love the fluorescent footwear while others hate it. Either way, Nike has captured marketing gold in London with its Volt line of shoes.
"I love the colour of the shoes," Canadian hurdler Phylicia George said via e-mail from London. "It's easy to notice when watching them on the track and they stand out."
And that's exactly what Nike wanted. TV viewers around the world have no doubt been asking "What's with all those yellow shoes?"
While its rival Adidas reportedly spent more than $150 million to be the official London sponsor, Nike has managed to sidestep strict marketing rules because shoes are not subject to official clothing-use requirements.
"Using the volt colour for all of the Nike shoes is designed to make a bold statement on sport’s biggest stage," Martin Lotti, Nike's global creative director said through a company spokeswoman.
Nike has got great bang for its buck with the Volt, says Scott Martyn, a University of Windsor professor who specializes in sport and Olympic history.
"You have to say that the (marketing) value for money is fantastic, that they've done exceedingly well given the relative investment and they've capitalized on it quite significantly," said Martyn.
Martyn said Nike's success with the Volt is reminiscent of the attention the company gained by providing gold shoes to retired American sprinter Michael Johnson. He used them to win the 200 metres in a world-record time at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.
"They're looking for some type of visual return or return on investment beyond simply the mention that they sponsor X," said Martyn. "Shoes are one way in which those restrictions that are placed on product advertising are somewhat in a grey area. So they can actually address it by not enhancing the relative size of the Nike swoosh. But what they do is, they actually change the colour to a vibrant colour, and therefore your attention is attracted to it, and you happen to see the Nike swoosh."
Martyn said Nike has thrived on making a splash at the Games over the years without being a top-level Olympic sponsor. Given the constraints that the IOC places on advertising, companies have to get creative.
"In essence, they haven't paid for the rights, or they haven't secured the privileges to call themselves an official sponsor," said Martyn. "But for some reason, the public develops an association, because of the marketing campaign, with them to the Olympic Games."
Over the years, there have been many cases of ambush marketing at the Olympics. And it is likely to continue, says Martyn.
"If history is any indication, there's a lot of effort of maximizing (a sponsor's) association (with an athlete) and stretching that affiliation as far as possible before someone says you've gone too far," said Martyn.
But while Nike achieves marketing success, its strategy could cause concern for the International Olympic Committee. Noting that Nike is much more inside the "Olympic house" than it used to be in terms of sponsorship, Martyn predicted the IOC will continue its efforts to increase Nike's Olympic-related investments instead of cracking down on its unofficial marketing activities.
Attempts to punish ambush marketers, he added, have not been successful because of the public backlash.
Bill Cooper, former director of commercial rights management for Vancouver's Olympic organizing committee, said Nike has produced an "iconic" shoe with the Volt.
"And to reach that visibility is probably quite strategic," said Cooper, who also managed an protected the Olympic brand for the Canadian Olympic Committee in 2010 and still consults for the COC. "Obviously, this summer, the focus on athletics is a great opportunity for sport manufacturers to drive product sales. So they're going to do their best to exploit that consumer enthusiasm and launch products that are visible and iconic and, hopefully, have that translate into sales."
But Cooper said it's dangerous to call Nike an ambush marketer.
"It's tricky with Nike, because Nike contributes a phenomenal amount of (financial) support to athletes and teams and national Olympic committees around the world," he said.
"They have a very legitimate story to tell whereas other organizations, who truly do partake in ambush marketing in its most damaging format, don't necessarily contribute to amateur sport. They just ride on the coattails of the Olympic movement and undertake marketing activities that marginalize the commercial integrity of the Olympic movement without contributing to amateur sport."
Meanwhile, George says athletes would balk if told to wear an official shoe brand at the Games — and not just for sponsorship-related reasons.
"Shoe choice is very important," said George, who wore the yellow shoes while finishing sixth in the 100-metre hurdles earlier this week. "A track athlete's spikes are like a piece of equipment that needs to be specifically fitted for them. Not every spike works well for every athlete."
Bolt, for example, wears Puma footwear.
But Cooper says Nike's actions pose some concern to the IOC. As the Olympics have grown over the years, the request for investment from sponsors, product licencees and broadcasters has increased accordingly. The IOC's promise to protect the Olympic brand has also grown.
Cooper says in order for amateur sport to remain financially sustainable over the long-term, the IOC and its international sponsors must co-exist with Games, athlete and team sponsors.
"If (they) are not able to co-exist and they don't have enough room to tell their marketing story, then the whole system starts to lose a bit of commercial sustainability," said Cooper. "That private-sector funding is what makes the system tick."
He predicted the IOC and sponsors at various levels will continue to struggle to strike a delicate balance. Given Nike's extensive sponsorship of Canadian teams and individual athletes, maintaining the balance will be key to Canada's future Olympic efforts.
However, the official Games sponsorship shoe will be on the other foot at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Nike will serve as the official sponsor of those Games, while Adidas will be in a potential position to ambush its rival.
"Their roles will be reversed in Rio," said Cooper.
Christine Sinclair carried the flag for Canada and the hosts staged another star-studded show to close off the London Games.
Canada's athletes celebrate at the Olympic Closing Ceremony. (Frank Gunn/CP)
Christine Sinclair carries the flag for Canada at the Olympic Closing Ceremony. (CP/Frank Gunn)
British band 'The Spice Girls' perform during the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Posh At The Games
Victoria Beckham performs as Posh Spice with British band The Spice Girls during the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Strut Their Stuff
British model Naomi Campbell, fourth right, walks with other models during the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Still Got It
Brian May, guitarist of the British rock band Queen, performs during the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Baby, You're A Firework
Fireworks explode over the Olympic Stadium at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
The Olympic flag is handed over to the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, the host of the 2016 Olympic Games. (AP)
Soak It All In
French athletes sit and watch as the Olympic Closing Ceremony come to a close. (AP)
An athlete holds up the British flag during the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
And after 16 days or winning, losing, scoring and missing, the London Games have come to an end. Canada's medal count remained at 18, while the U.S. would go on to to win a gold in men's basketball. Russia defeated Brazil in men's volleyball to take home a gold and the Italian men's water polo team fell to their Croatian counterparts to secure a silver medal.
Spain's Got Game
Spain's Sergio Llull reacts during the men's gold medal basketball game against USA at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London.
Kiss The Podium
Members of the gold medallist team from Russia kiss the podium during the rhythmic gymnastics group all-around final at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London.
Alekno's In The Air
Members of team Russia lift their coach, Vladimir Alekno, into the air after defeating Brazil in a men's gold medal volleyball match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London.
Right Jab To the Face
Russia's Egor Mekhontcev, right, fights Kazakhstan's Adilbek Niyazymbetov in a light heavyweight 81-kg gold medal boxing match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. Mekhontcev won the gold and Niyazymbetov won the silver.
Gold-medalist Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda, left, competes with Kenya's bronze-medalist Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich, center, and silver-medalist Abel Kirui in the men's marathon at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London.
Pink And In Sync
The team from Russia performs during the rhythmic gymnastics group all-around final at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London.
Cuba's Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana reacts after being declared the winner over Mongolia's Tugstsogt Nyambayar in their flyweight 52-kg gold medal boxing match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London.
Italy's Emanuele Birarelli (15) reacts following the final point of a 3-1 win over Bulgaria in the men's bronze medal volleyball match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London.
There's A Reason The Call Him King James
United States' LeBron James dunks during a men's gold medal basketball game against Spain at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London.
The Smell Of Sweet, Sweet Victory
Croatia's Ivan Buljubasic sniffs his flowers after receiving his gold medal at the men's water polo gold medal ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. Croatia beat Italy 8-6 in the gold medal game.
Canada wins yet another bronze medal in men's K1 200m kayak event, and Mexico defeats Brazil for the gold medal in men's soccer. Canada had an another Olympic upset and lost the bronze medal in the 4x100 relay due to a disqualification. Jamaica set a world record.
Tearin' Up Our Hearts
Canada's Justyn Warner is comforted after the team was disqualified from third place in the men's 4x100-meter relay.
Jamaican Us Crazy
Jamaica's Usain Bolt reacts as he finishes ahead of United States' Ryan Bailey in the men's 4 x 100-meter relay.
Britain's Mo Farah kisses the track after winning gold in the men's 5000-meter final during the athletics.
Love On Top
Sharif Sharifov of Azerbaijan celebrates after he beat Jaime Yusept Espinal of Puerto Rico for the gold medal during the men's 84-kg freestyle wrestling competition.
Race Walk It Out
Russia's Elena Lashmanova celebrates winning the women's 50-kilometer race walk.
United States mb Foluke Akinradewo, left, and Destinee Hooker react during the women's gold medal volleyball match against Brazil.
Hwang Woojin, of South Korea, and his horse Shearwater Oscar, fall down after the horse bucked after the starting bell sounded to start their run in the equestrian show jumping stage of the men's modern pentathlon.
From left to right Spain's Elliot 6m crew Angela Pumariega, Sofia Toro Prieto, and Tamara Echegoyen celebrate after winning the gold medal at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012, in Weymouth and Portland, England. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Mexico's Hector Herrera (6) and Mexico's Oribe Peralta (9) celebrate winning the gold medal with teammates in the men's soccer final against Brazil.
Bronze medallist Belarus' Liubou Charkashyna cries after a performance during the rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around final.
Gold Medal Ribbon
Russia's Daria Dmitrieva performs during the rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around final.
Settles For Seventh
Canada's Catharine Pendrel (2) competes in the Mountain Bike Cycling women's race.
Australia's Got Talent
Australia's Jared Tallent competes in the men's 50-kilometer race walk.
Jake Herbert of the United State competes against Sharif Sharifov of Azerbaijan (in blue) during the men's 120-kg freestyle wrestling competition.
Amro El Geziry of Egypt, left, and Nicholas Woodbridge of Great Britain swim the 200-meter freestyle during the swimming portion of the men's modern pentathlon.
Fencing Is Modern
Britain's Samuel Weale looks up during the fencing section of the men's modern pentathlon.
Canada wins another bronze in men's open-water marathon and placed 4th in synchronized swimming. U.S. women's team set a world record in the 4 x 100 relay and Bahamas beat the men's team in the last stretch of the race.
South Africa's Oscar Pistorius competes in the men's 4x400-meter relay final during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium.
Bahamas' Ramon Miller beats United States' Angelo Taylor across the line to win the men's 4 x 400-meter relay.
France's Renaud Lavillenie clears the bar in the men's pole vault final during the athletics.
Kenya's Hellen Onsando Obiri leaps over United States' Morgan Uceny during the women's 1500-meter final during the athletics.
United States' Morgan Uceny reacts after falling during the women's 1500-meter final during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa De Olza)
Throw It Up
South Korea's head coach Hong Myung-bo is hoisted up by his players after the team won their men's soccer bronze medal match.
They've Got The Beat
The team from Russia performs during the rhythmic gymnastics group all-around qualifications at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 10, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Bump, Set, Boom
Bulgaria's Viktor Yosifov (12) spikes home a point against Russia during a men's volleyball semifinal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics Friday, Aug. 10, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Brazil's Squel Stein is carried off the field in a stretcher during a BMX cycling women's semifinal run at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 10, 2012, in London. Stein fell off her bike after she landed on the grass following a big jump in the first half of the course. The 21-year-old Stein secured her best result in a major competition earlier this year when she reached the world championships final. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
The team from Russia competes during the synchronized swimming team free routine final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. Russia won the gold medal in the event. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Swimmers dive into the Serpentine to start the men's 10-kilometer marathon swimming competition in Hyde Park at the 2012 Summer Olympics Friday, Aug. 10, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)