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Ambush marketing & the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023: What brands need to know

Female Footballer Standing infront of star
Friday, 30 June 2023 By Stephen Taylor Heath, Lucy Marlow

With under a month to go until the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 being held in Australia and New Zealand, we can expect to see a surge in marketing activities. Businesses will wish to become associated with one of the largest events on the sporting calendar, whether that be lawfully or unlawfully.

Ambush marketing is where entities attempt to gain brand recognition and deceive the public into thinking that they are an official sponsor without paying the associated sponsorship fees. The Global Language Monitor report exposed that ambush marketers at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics generated a similar degree of brand affiliation with the Olympics and the consequential economic benefits as official sponsors without paying the sponsorship fee.1 It comes as no surprise companies will go to various lengths with such clever and innovative marketing ploys.

Unsurprisingly, ambush marketing does not have a single widely accepted definition, but typically manifests in three main forms: ambush marketing by association, ambush marketing by intrusion, and opportunistic ambush marketing – for a further exploration of each, please see this article on LawInSport2. What unites each form of ambush marketing is that it concerns a parasitic strategy which seeks to gain association to an event without paying for the sponsorship rights to do so.

Whilst some of these marketing activities may at face value be entertaining, they can significantly undermine the entire sponsorship structure that forms the financial backbone to big-ticket events. We can see from past World Cup events that ambush marketing stunts persist and are likely to be of concern to the organisers of the upcoming World Cup. The most famous example of this type of marketing is undoubtably by the Dutch brewers, Bavaria, at the FIFA World Cup 2010. The campaign involved 36 female models appearing inside the stands for the Netherlands’s game against Denmark, all wearing Bavaria branded orange dresses, which later resulted in arrests being made.3

As such, it is important that official sponsors and rights holders become versed in the legal controls that exist to prevent ambush marketing.

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Written by

Stephen Taylor Heath

Stephen Taylor Heath

Stephen is a Partner and Head of Sports Law at JMW.

Stephen is highly regarded by clients and his peers and currently ranked as a ‘Leading individual’ by Legal 500 in the TMT/Sports category. He is as an acknowledged expert in particular with regard to multi-jurisdictional broadcast agreements for major events and Ambassador agreements for high profile sports and media personalities. He is also noted for his work on constitutional and regulatory matters across several sports as well as his involvement in commercial initiatives to modernise the approach of several key sporting governing bodies such as the Royal & Ancient and British Boxing Board of Control.

Lucy Marlow

Lucy Marlow

Lucy Marlow is an Intellectual Property and Sports Law Senior Associate at JMW Solicitors LLP.

Lucy specialises in advising clients on intellectual property matters such as trademarks, copyright, passing off, patents and designs with a particular focus on the sports industry. As part of her practice she advises clients in relation to the securing, exploitation and protection of their intellectual property rights across various sectors. During her career to date, Lucy has settled intellectual property disputes through various means, including correspondence, mediation, and the intellectual property specialist courts and registries. Lucy also has extensive experience in information technology disputes, confidential information, advertising law and reputation management.

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