Ambush Marketers warned away from 2018 Commonwealth Games

Belinda Slattery
  • Belinda Slattery - Senior Associate Trade Marks Attorney
  • Senior Associate Trade Marks Attorney Every business has a brand and in many cases this is its most valuable asset. I really enjoy helping clients to protect and maintain their brands. This can put them into a great position to flourish and grow."

The 2018 Commonwealth Games is being held in April on Australia’s Gold Coast.  During the build up to the Games, the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC – the Games’ organising committee) has warned companies against ambush marketing.

What is ambush marketing?

Ambush marketing occurs when a company advertises or promotes its brand or product in connection with a major public event, without actually buying the right to do so (for example by buying a legitimate sponsorship package).  Over the years, ambush marketing has taken many forms, for example:

  • During the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Linford Christie (the Olympic gold medal sprinter) wore contact lenses displaying a prominent Puma logo during a press conference. Puma was not a sponsor of the Games, although Reebok – one of Puma’s major competitors – was.
  • At the 2012 European soccer championships, Danish player Nicklas Bendtner was fined for his role in some ambush marketing. Bendtner scored a goal during the game between Denmark and Portugal.  While celebrating the goal, Bendtner pulled down his shorts to reveal some fetching “Paddy Power” branded underpants.  Paddy Power is an Irish bookmaker.  Bendtner was fined 100,000 euros for the stunt.
  • Beats, the US headphones brand, pulled off some effective ambush marketing for the London Olympics in 2012. Special edition Beats headphones were given out for free to athletes. Some athletes were pictured wearing the headphones on the way to and from events and some sent thank-you tweets.

Why is ambush marketing controversial?

Ambush marketing is controversial because it arguably discourages the legitimate sponsorship of events.  Major events usually rely on sponsorship funding in order to successfully operate and broadcast their event.

Authorities’ response to ambush marketing

Some governments have responded to ambush marketing by passing special legislation to protect the rights of sponsors for certain events.  The 2018 Commonwealth Games is one example of an event for which special protections have been introduced.

The protections are contained within the Major Events (Gold Coast Commonwealth Games) Regulation 2017.  The Regulation provides commercial protections to protect Games sponsors.  There are restrictions on:

  • ambush marketing;
  • unauthorised advertising; and
  • unauthorised broadcasting.

And if the Regulations weren’t enough for any brand owner thinking of getting up to ambush marketing mischief, then the words of Peter Beattie, the GOLDOC Chairman, may be.  Mr Beattie has warned that ambush marketers will be “kicked to death” by the Games organisers…..

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