Practical steps to counter ambush marketing
Following on from my previous article on ambush marketing, here are some practical tips that event organisers and sponsors may consider taking (depending on the importance of the event, the sponsorship and the risk) in order to avoid ambush marketing and protect the intellectual property and investment of the parties:
- In and around the sport stadia themselves: event organisers may consider negotiating contractual terms obliging stadia owners to take a proactive approach to preventing ambush marketing by fully controlling advertising in the vicinity. The organisers may, for example, oblige owners to hand over stadia as clean sites (meaning that they would have to be cleared of all advertising by unofficial sponsors), to rename the stadia for the duration of the event or to control access to the stadia grounds, including the airspace above.
- Billboard and other advertising space in the vicinity of the event: organisers may consider buying and then reselling such space only to official sponsors. Indeed, sponsors may want to contractually oblige event organisers to do this.
- Broadcasts/webcasts: event organisers may require media organisations to restrict advertising and promotion immediately before, during or after the broadcasts or webcasts to official sponsors, as long as these restrictions are proportionate and not anti-competitive. Alternatively, event organisers may contractually bind broadcasters to offer official sponsors first rights to buy broadcast advertising and sponsorship rights or to veto advertising sponsorship by competitors, subject to applicable competition law considerations. However this would increase the cost of the overall advertising programme for the sponsor and it should be taken into account when calculating the original media plan before obtaining the sponsorship licence.
- Intellectual property: event sponsors should ensure that event organisers not only own and have made effective licensing arrangements for the relevant intellectual property rights, but that they are contractually bound to take action against ambush marketers within a set period of time after such activity is brought to their attention. Event organisers should ensure that all names, logos, slogans, and so on connected with the event in question are registered as trademarks.
- Online activities: event organisers and sponsors should try to minimise the effect of online ambush marketing, such as the use of similar website names to, or unauthorised linking or framing to, the official website which relates to the sports or other event, or to the sponsor's website by operating an systematic check of the online community.
- Raising awareness: event organisers and sponsors may want to consider conducting official sponsor-awareness campaigns so that the public know which sponsors are official. Indeed, sponsors may seek to contractually oblige event organisers to run such campaigns and ensure that they are prominently identified as the only official sponsors in all literature and advertising surrounding the event.
- Sporting bodies: are increasingly cracking down on the running of unofficial promotions which offer tickets to sporting events as prizes in competitions. For example, only official sponsors and partners of each FIFA World Cup are permitted to run competitions or promotions in relation to tickets for the World Cup. Ticket terms and conditions now expressly state that tickets are non-transferable and cannot be used for advertising, sales promotion or any other commercial purposes without the prior written approval of FIFA. However, once again, the terms and conditions must be proportionate and not fall foul of competition law.
- Individual agreements: event organisers should ensure that all athletes have signed up to strict contractual terms prohibiting the display of logos of personal sponsors during the event, although any enforcement of such restrictions would inevitably attract bad publicity.
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