The World Cup, Le Tour de France and the Commonwealth Games: Tempting times for ambush marketing

The World Cup, Le Tour de France and the Commonwealth Games: Tempting times for ambush marketing

During major sporting events, certain brands will actively pursue an “ambush marketing” strategy meaning that they will deliberately seek to associate their products with an event, despite not being one of the official sponsors. However, the complexity and ambiguity of relevant rules and restrictions means that without care, other brands will unwittingly infringe rights connected to sporting events.  Andrew Terry and Chloe Chittock, Partner and Associate in the IP & Media Group of Eversheds LLP, give an overview of the ambush marketing landscape and include details of key event trade marks, mascots, slogans, lists of official sponsors and approved guidance.

This summer, the World Cup in Brazil will attract huge global audiences which along with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Tour de France in England and France, will fill news channels and social media for weeks on end. This, in turn, allows organisers and broadcasters to drive advertising revenue from brands which want to be connected with success.

Inevitably, some brands that do not want to pay for sponsorship rights will still seek to be associated with these events. The most eye catching examples of ambush marketing occur when brands physically hijack events – this not only creates an impact at the venue, but often attracts wider news coverage. This happened as 36 Dutch supporters were ejected from a game during the South Africa World Cup in 2010, when they arrived dressed in orange outfits advertising a rival to Budweiser, the authorised beer. Other brands, although not engaging in physical activity, will deliberately use adaptations of rival brands famous marks or sporting imagery in their advertising, perhaps without expressly referring to the event itself. Again, brands engage in such activity at their own risk.

However, there are many brands that inadvertently fall foul of the complexities of the law in this area. Sometimes, this is because they wrongly believe that using imagery around such events is somehow “public domain”, or that as long as they do not use the official nam

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