The laws on ambush marketing for FIFA World Cup 2018

Published 08 May 2018 | Authored by: Alex Kelham

The FIFA World Cup stimulates a frenzy of marketing activity – both official and unofficial.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup marked possibly the first time ambush marketing really made headlines in the UK. Bavaria beer’s stunt at The Netherlands’ first match of the tournament involved beautiful Dutch models dressed in orange seeking entry into a match disguised as Danish fans, only to reveal their promotional intent once the match began. This episode led to the South African authorities making arrests, as well as the sacking of the TV pundit Robbie Earle, who had apparently supplied the tickets to the girls: a media storm ensued.

There were further examples of high-profile campaigns in the UK in 2010 which raised eyebrows – from Walkers’ World Cup of Flavours and Pepsi’s "Oh Africa" to KitKat’s "Cross your fingers" campaign.

The Brazil 2014 World Cup saw the rise of the "social" ambush with numerous companies, including Spec Savers and Peperami, opportunistically posting jokes related to Louis Suarez biting the shoulder of Italian player Giorgio Chiellini. Meanwhile Activia gave the world the most shared commercial through a clever, and no doubt expensive, ambush which culminated in a global-football themed video for Shakira’s song La-La-La. The video featured some of the worlds highest profile players and encouraged public support for the World Food Programme’s school meals initiative by sharing the video.

Although Shakira, the players and the WFP were undoubtedly officially endorsing the campaign, Activia were not an official World Cup sponsor. In fact their global football credentials appeared to be limited to their "owned" event, the Danone Nation’s Cup (“the world’s biggest football tournament, for children aged 10 to 12”). Despite this, Activia lucked out with FIFA curiously selecting La-La-La as an official tune for Brazil 2014 and the viral music video looked like an incredibly authentic, official campaign.

It is yet to be seen what companies will come up with ahead of the start of the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, but if you want to stay out of the headlines and on the right side of the law, this note is here to help.

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About the Author

Alex Kelham

Alex Kelham

Alex is the Head of Lewis Silkin’s Sport Business Group. Her work focuses on advising entities across the sports sector on a wide range of predominantly commercial and IP issues.

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