Ambush Marketers Beware! 2010 FIFA World Cup is a Protected Event

Ambush marketing in the context of the FIFA World Cup can be defined as an attempt by a third party, which in most instances is a competitor of an official partner, sponsor or national supporter of the world cup event, to associate its brands and products directly (association) or indirectly (intrusion) with such an event.

Ambush marketing by association occurs where the ambush marketer misleads the public to think that he is the official sponsor associated with the event whereas with ambush marketing by intrusion, the ambush marketer does not seek to suggest connection with the event but rather to give his own brands/products exposure through the medium of the publicity attracted by the event and without the authorization of the event organizer.

It is apparent from past experiences that ambush marketing by intrusion is the more problematic of the two. In 2002 FIFA World Cup, which was co-hosted by Japan and South Korea, a soft drink manufacturing company, which was not a FIFA official sponsor, made an advertisement in Argentina in which the words Tokyo 2002 appeared alongside famous footballers and other soccer imagery. The Argentine court banned this advertisement. It is this kind of advertisement which has the potential to leave the impression with consumers that the company was an official sponsor of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The fact that the 2002 FIFA World Cup was hosted by Japan and its capital city is Tokyo and the timing of such advertisement can create such an impression.

Held every four years, the FIFA World Cup is the world’s largest and most beloved sporting event. It delivers measurable media value, category exclusivity and a genuine opportunity to reach core consumers, reinforce brand credibility in football and expand the boundaries of brand loyalty through authentic marketing that boosts sales.

With the 2006 FIFA World Cup over, the attention and focus of FIFA, its sponsors and their competitors and the world as a whole will shift to Africa and specifically to South Africa in preparation for the 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP to be hosted by South Africa. The question is– How will South Africa deal with the issue of ambush marketing?

South Africa has Article 11 of the Sponsorship Code of the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) which specifically provides for seven unacceptable and prohibited ambush marketing strategies, i.e. media strategies; usage of athletes/sports personalities/performers/artists; supporting sports federations and bodies; sales promotions before and during an event; corporate hospitality; sponsors ambushing sponsors and event "airspace".

From its side, FIFA has established a Rights Protection Programme (RPP) to prevent ambush marketing. The RPP involves a wide range of activities including a global trade mark registration programme, the worldwide appointment of legal experts and collaboration with customs and police authorities in all key regions of the world.

In the recent 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, FIFA lodged a complaint with ASA against LG Electronics SA (Pty) Ltd (LG). The complaint was based on advertisements in which LG advertised a competition in which the prizes offered were three trips for two to the final in Germany. The images and phrases used in advertisements were allusions to the FIFA World Cup, and appeared in various formats, including television, print media and on LG´s website. These advertisements used phrases such as "The Ultimate Football Tournament" and "The Final in Germany". LG agreed to amend its advertisements by deleting all references to the FIFA World Cup.

Considering the past ambush marketing activities in the previous FIFA World Cup tournaments, it has become clear that strict regulation to counter ambush marketing would be useful.

In addition to RPP and the ASA regulations, the Minister of Trade and Industry has, in the Government Gazette Notice 683 of 2006 designated 2010 FIFA World Cup (the World Cup) as a protected event in terms of section 15A of the Merchandise Marks Act, 1941 (the Act). The purpose of this provision is to render it unlawful to abuse the right to use a trade mark in the context of a sponsored event. Anyone who contravenes these provisions commits a criminal offence.

Attention is specifically drawn to subsections 2, 3, 4 and 5 of section 15A of the Act which read as follows:

2. For the period during which the World Cup is protected in South Africa, no person may use a trade mark in relation to this event in a manner which is calculated to achieve publicity for that trade mark and thereby to derive special promotional benefit from the event, without the prior authority of the organizer of the World Cup.

3. The use of a trade mark includes: ·

any visual representation of the trade mark upon or in relation to goods or in relation to the rendering of services; ·

any audible reproduction of the trade mark in relation to goods or the rendering of services; or ·

the use of the trade mark in promotional activities, which in any way, directly or indirectly, is intended to be brought into association with or to allude to an event.

4. Any person who contravenes subsection (2) shall be guilty of an offence

5. For the purposes of this section ‘trade mark’ includes a mark.

This is a step in the right direction to assist the 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP organizers against ambush marketing. The organizers need to be proactive and reactive towards the ambush marketing in order to protect the integrity and financial viability of the event; to build the event brand and goodwill in it for the future and to fulfil contractual obligations to sponsors.

Any person convicted of an offence in terms of the Act shall be liable, in the case of a first conviction, to a fine not exceeding R5 000 for each article to which the offence relates or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years or to both such fine and such imprisonment. For a second or subsequent conviction, penalties not exceeding R10 000 for each article to which the offence relates or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to such fine and such imprisonment, may be imposed.

However the question is whether this additional step taken by the South African legislature is bold enough to curb or scare-off ambushing activities? Considering the success of the similar piece of legislation during 2003 Cricket World Cup one is tempted to agree that it has the potential of achieving the desired results. In the same breath the organizers should bear in mind that football is not called a game of billions for nothing. It attracts more interest in terms of support than any other sport and as a result many of the companies will do anything to be associated with an event of its magnitude.

I therefore submit that the organizers should launch media and road show campaigns similar to the SABC-SAFA Siyanqoba campaign in order to inform the public about the names of official sponsors; conditions of entry at the stadiums and the consequences of conducting ambush marketing.

Come 2010, hopefully there will not be Dutch fans watching games in nothing but underwear as happened in 2006 FIFA World Cup after they were required to take off their orange lederhosen displaying the name of Dutch brewery Bavaria before entering the stadium in their teams’ game against Ivory Coast in Stuttgart. Anheuser Busch (owner of the BUDWEISER brand) is FIFA’s official beer sponsor.

Date published: 2006/12/06
Author: Donald Thipe

Tags: ambush marketers 2010 world cup fifa protected