With the imminent kick start to Euro 2016 and the Summer Olympics and Paralympics just around the corner, many companies may be tempted to seek to capitalise on the popularity of this summer’s sporting events. While this may seem like a lucrative advertising strategy, it’s important to do this carefully so that you don’t fall foul (sorry for the pun) of advertising regulations or the intellectual property rights of the tournaments (or individual players).
Tournament organisers are keen to enforce the rights that they hold to protect the value of their tournament, not least due to pressure from major sponsors who have paid significant sums to be associated with the tournament. If tournament organisers don’t protect their rights, then next time when they come to sell-off sponsorship rights, they may find that their value is lower.
The Committee of Advertising Practice (which is a body associated with the Advertising Standards Agency) has issued guidance on how you can avoid being caught offside (sorry again…) of the CAP Code which regulates advertising in the UK (whether this is published in papers, magazines on your website or anywhere else) or the BCAP Code, which regulates adverts broadcast on television or radio. Whilst the CAP Code is a self-regulatory regime and the ASA cannot impose fines, they can (and do) often end up with businesses getting bad publicity and coverage in the press (together with increased scrutiny for future adverts). The guidance can be found here.
As well as considering the CAP Code, businesses looking to tap into the popularity of these events should also consider whether such campaigns could fall cause issues in relation to intellectual property, including trade mark and copyright infringement. Most international tournaments will look to obtain trademarks around their logos (for example, “Rio 2016” is a Community Trade Mark protected across the EU in a number of categories of goods and services).
In relation to the Olympics, there is legislation in the UK (the Olympic Symbol etc Protection Act 1995) which protects the word “Olympics” (and similar words), the Olympic logo (the 5 rings) and the Olympic Motto and makes it an offence to use any of these in relation to trade or advertisements without permission.
Even if trade mark or copyright infringement cannot be proven, an advertiser can still find themselves facing a red card (last one, I promise) if they are seen to be implying an association between them and the event or participants.
In short, there are likely to be intellectual property rights existing in event names, logos, mascots, photographs, event footage and much more. If a campaign uses the rights or creates an association without the consent of the owner or licensee, the campaign could come up against infringement actions – and rights owners have been keen historically to protect the value of their rights. Therefore, businesses should carefully consider their position before seeking to jump aboard the bandwagon.