Focus on: Sports law

After England’s early World Cup exit, Andy Murray crashing out of Wimbledon in the quarter finals and Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome having to retire from the Tour de France, it might have been tempting to hang up the Union Jack flags, put the Pimms back in the cupboard and take up a gentle pastime like crochet, where the chances of disappointment are much lower. Thankfully, Lewis Hamilton restored some hope with his recent win at the British Grand Prix, and there was still more opportunity for the Brits to redeem themselves in a sporting sense in various events at the Commonwealth Games.

Sport is big business, and the legal issues that arise can involve many players—including sportspeople, event organisers, venues, broadcasters, partners, suppliers, sponsors and brand owners. Many advertisers aim to make the most of the hype and attention surrounding events by selling merchandise and advertising their products around the tournament. The Commonwealth Games provided this opportunity. However, it is very easy for advertisers to fall foul of the laws on ambush marketing.

The International Olympic Committee has defined ambush marketing as ‘a planned attempt by a third party to associate itself directly or indirectly with the Olympic Games to gain the recognition and benefits associated with being an Olympic partner’. The events most frequently targeted by ambush marketers are sporting events, such as national tournaments, world cups and Olympic Games. These events are watched (and otherwise followed) by millions of people, and often have a huge amount of goodwill associated with them. As a result, organisations will pay significant sums to be an official sponsor. However, it is very expensive, so other organisations seek to 'gate-crash' the events. One of the most high-profile ambushes at the 2010 FIFA World Cup was carried out by the Dutch brewer, Bavaria. Budweiser was the official beer sponsor of the 2010 World Cup. However, Bavaria was able to create an unauthorised association with the event when 36 women wearing orange mini-dresses provided by Bavaria went to the Holland v Denmark game. The dresses did not carry any Bavaria branding but Bavaria had an established reputation simply in the colour orange in Holland. The women were evicted from the stadium by the event organisers.

For more information on ambush marketing, or guidance related to sports law, take a look at our Sports Law sub topic in LexisPSL which focuses on the brand protection, media, sponsorship and technology-related aspects of sport. Warm up with some of our special feature news analysis (a subscription to LexisPSL is required), including: Combating infringement at international sporting eventsSponsorship—the golden goal of advertisement? When sports stars turn bad—tips to protect your brandWorld Cup fever—how to win the advertising game  and World Cup promotions—how to avoid scoring an own goal

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