Ambush Marketing: A Practical Guide to Protecting the Brand of a Sporting Event

Ambush marketing is a relatively new concept in the general field of IP law which has come to the fore in the past decade with the increased prominence and magnitude of major international sporting events such as the Soccer World Cup, the Rugby World Cup, the Cricket World Cup, and the Olympic Games. The practices of sponsors and advertisers in relation to major sporting events have given rise to the necessity for a customized form of protection that may be viewed as a new area of IP law, or at least of the application of IP law.

On account of the trail-blazing nature of anti-ambush marketing action, sponsors and event organizers have been required to improvise and innovate in their attempts to protect their investment. Gradually, and on an evolutionary basis, a body of law is being built up and strategies are crystallizing for dealing with the problem. In the past, there has been no roadmap or guidebook which could instruct and assist sponsors and event organizers in how to go about combating ambush marketing. They have been navigating unchartered territory as pioneers and finding their way by consulting sources which have developed expertise and experience on a piecemeal basis.

The darkness of the unfamiliar landscape has, however, been illuminated by the appearance of a publication entitled Ambush Marketing: A Practical Guide to Protecting the Brand of a Sporting Event by Philip Johnson. This work, published by Thomson/Sweet & Maxwell in the EIPR Practice Series, is an invaluable guide to anyone who must come to grips with, or wishes to be informed about, ambush marketing and the legal remedies available to counteract it. In clear, concise, and easily understandable terms, the author has described the problems caused by ambush marketing and the recourses available under the law (from a variety of origins or sources) available to combat ambush marketing. While the book has been written mainly with the law of the UK as the primary resource, it is nevertheless of great value to persons dealing with ambush marketing problems in other parts of the world.

In the course of displaying the array of weapons available to an opponent of ambush marketing, the author describes and gives basic introductions to the pertinent areas of IP law, with the main focus being on trade marks, but also including passing-off, copyright, designs, libel, and malicious falsehood, as well as domain names. Having explained and illustrated how these areas of the law can be utilized in combating ambush marketing, the author then describes sui generis forms of protection which have been developed in Britain for the Olympics and Paralympics, and more specifically, for use by the London Olympics Association in connection with the forthcoming 2012 Olympic Games to be staged in London. By way of comparison, the author deals briefly with specific protection against ambush marketing provided in other countries, including Australia, Canada, South Africa, Portugal, Italy, and New Zealand.

After describing the available weapons, the author gives practical advice on how to use these weapons and to embody them in contracts, licences, and the like. He deals with issues which can come into play in the enforcement of the rights, such as exhaustion.

Moving out of the strict area of IP law, the author addresses the use which could be made of advertising and trade regulation measures and focus attention on issues relating to ticket selling.

The author has pitched his book at a wide and varied market covering, at the one end of the spectrum, IP lawyers and, at the other, company executives and advertising agents, and even perhaps those who are minded to practise ambush marketing in the hope that they will get away with it. The author’s writing style and his reference to the facts of past cases and practical situations enable him to get his message over to the full range of his potential audience. This is no mean achievement and it makes the book a useful and comprehensible guide to lawyers and laymen alike.

The one possible criticism that can perhaps be leveled at the book is that it concentrates very largely on ambush marketing by association and deals comparatively sparsely with ambush marketing by intrusion. This is, however, perhaps understandable because the whole notion of combating ambush marketing by intrusion is somewhat in its infancy, although it is fast gathering momentum, with countries such as South Africa (for the 2003 Cricket World Cup and the 2010 Soccer World Cup), the West Indian Islands (for the 2007 Cricket World Cup), and New Zealand (for the 2011 Rugby World Cup) setting the pace. This has been done by means of sui generis legislation with its roots in IP but breaking new ground in legal thinking.

In summary, the book is a useful tool and an essential acquisition for anyone involved in the organizing of major events or providing sponsorships therefore, or with an interest in any of these activities. Being well researched and provided with comprehensive references, it is furthermore an extremely useful contribution to the development of the law dealing with ambush marketing.

 By Phillip Johnson

Sweet & Maxwell, 2008

* Spoor & Fisher.


Date published: 2009/12/04
Author: Phillip Johnson

Tags: ambush marketing sporting proctecting the brand