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Volume 6 No. 213

Marketing and Sponsorship

FIFA is cracking down on ambush marketers to protect its official sponsors and partners. Prior to the start of this year’s World Cup in Brazil, FIFA forced the host country to pass legislation that allows it to be more aggressive in combating ambush marketing. The reason for such drastic measures is FIFA’s concern that if it can’t control ambush marketing, it can’t ensure sponsors that they get value for their investments, said Jeff Greenbaum, managing partner of New York-based law firm Frankfurt Kurnit. Companies like adidas, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Coca-Cola and Sony pay millions to be associated with the World Cup. In return, FIFA provides them with exclusivity. The companies are able to use the official logos and trademarks of FIFA and the World Cup on their products or in ad campaigns. They receive exclusive access and can call themselves official sponsors. Greenbaum told SBD Global that if FIFA can’t provide this exclusivity to its partners, it will not be able to sell these sponsorships in the future. Organizers, such as FIFA and the IOC, forcing countries to pass special laws protecting against ambush marketing has led to concerns about the reach of these laws as they have become broader over the past decade. “Part of the difficulty with FIFA and the Olympics getting jurisdictions to create new special laws to help them enforce their rights is it creates a lot of uncertainty about what are the practices that cross the line,” Greenbaum said. Ahead of the 2012 London Games, there were a series of conferences run by legal firms explaining the do’s and don’ts to companies trying to market themselves around the Olympics, according to Nigel Currie, director of sports marketing agency Brand Rapport.

BEATING THE RULES: With ambush marketing by intrusion and association strictly prohibited, marketers look for new ways to take advantage of the buzz and hype that surround big sporting events. Instead of directly referencing the respective event, non-official sponsors simply talk about elements of what is happening. “Many companies are trying to create advertising featuring players they have long-standing relationships with as a way to capture the excitement around the World Cup,” Greenbaum said. Electronics brand Beats by Dre has been the most prominent example of what FIFA deems to be an infraction. Ahead of the tournament in Brazil, the company launched its “The Game Before The Game” campaign, which features World Cup participants such as Neymar, Luis Suárez and Bastian Schweinsteiger, but does not mention the event by name. While FIFA evidently had no problem with the campaign, Reuters reported it has banned players from wearing the company’s headphones in World Cup stadiums for official matches and media events. The tournament’s official sponsor in the category of consumer electronics is Sony. Beats by Dre also caused a stir during the London Games as it sent its products to Team GB athletes. The IOC subsequently banned British athletes and others from wearing the headphones to protect the interests of official sponsor Panasonic. FIFA was unable to provide SBD Global with a concrete number of infringements leading up to this year’s tournament, but said it is noticing an increase. To give some perspective, FIFA said that during the four-year cycle leading up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa it dealt with roughly 2,000 instances of infringements of its rights.

A GREY AREA: The globalization of advertising campaigns, the importance of communicating with consumers 24/7 through social media and the fact that marketers have become more sophisticated means the trend of host countries being required to enact special laws that help protect the interest of certain rights holders will continue, said Greenbaum. Aggressive enforcement on the part of the rights holders is likely to result in a more conservative marketing approach by companies to avoid becoming a target. “Brands (particularly bookies) will continue to have some fun and try to push the laws to the limits,” said Currie. “But the likes of Pepsi and Nike have developed outstanding campaigns which use the media focus of major sporting events but which don’t break any rules.” While Greenbaum believes there are rights that need to be protected, he said there is no right answer to the controversial issue of ambush marketing. “We are going to be continuing to sort of wrestle with when does legitimate marketing cross the line,” Greenbaum said. “One of the great things about advertisers and advertising is that it is a creative field, and they will always come up with new ways to say what they want to say.”

Adidas has dropped Uruguay striker Luis Suárez "from all commercial activities for the rest of the World Cup in Brazil and set for talks at the highest level with the player and his representatives at the end of the tournament," according to Adam Crafton of the London DAILY MAIL. A company statement read, "Adidas fully supports FIFA’s decision. Adidas certainly does not condone Luis Suarez’s recent behaviour and we will again be reminding him of the high standards we expect from our players. We have no plan to use Suarez for any additional marketing activities during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. We will discuss all aspects of our future partnership directly with Suarez and his team following the World Cup" (DAILY MAIL, 6/26).

NO LONG TERM HIT EXPECTED: FORBES' Christina Settimi asked, "does the bite heard around the world hurt Suarez?" Financially, "it appears not." Suárez’s "largest and most important sponsor is keen on keeping their star whom they signed to a long-term multi-million incentivized contract." Adidas' statement "is a transgression from the company’s previous policy on violence." The shoemaker "dropped singer Teyana Taylor after she had a spat with fellow pop star Rihanna and threatened her over social media." Then a representative for the company said that "it doesn’t condone violence of any kind." But that is "how important" football is to adidas’ business (FORBES, 6/26). In London, Simon Peach reported Suárez "also has a relationship with 888poker, having recently joined them as a worldwide ambassador." The forward "has produced several video diaries during the World Cup as part of that role, which will also see him join in with several of the company's events." However, 888poker announced on Wednesday that "it is considering dropping Suarez after this latest incident" (INDEPENDENT, 6/26).

Adecco Italy and the Italian Paralympic Committee have signed a new cooperation agreement, valid until '20, related to the Athlete Career Program. The partnership, which follows the agreement signed between Adecco and the Int'l Paralympic Committee, aims to bring elite athletes together with companies. The agreement's objectives include a plan to involve 100 athletes over the next five years in interviews, career guidance and integration into a working environment, as well as training activities (IPC).

Scottish Premiership side Hibernian FC announced a six-figure partnership deal with Marathonbet, which will see the global bookmakers become the club's new main sponsor. The initial two-year agreement begins ahead of the '14-15 season and includes an option to extend to a third year. The Marathonbet logo will adorn the front of Hibernian's home and away shirts plus the new sponsors will also operate in-stadia betting at Easter Road Stadium from the start of next season. In addition, Marathonbet has a sizeable online presence (Hibernian FC).

Automotive supplier Continental "signed a deal to become the naming-rights sponsor of a new stadium in Regensburg, Germany." Continental will pay €1M ($1.36M) "to put its name on the new stadium of German 3rd League football club SSV Jahn Regensburg for five years" (BR, 6/25). ... League Two side Luton Town has extended its shirt sponsorship deal with budget airline easyJet for a further year, "to make it a sixth season in succession in partnership with the Hatters" (DUNSTABLE TODAY, 6/25). ... Australian Football League side Sydney Swans has signed a sponsorship deal with global travel search company Skyscanner. The one-year deal will see Skyscanner become the travel search provider of choice for the Swans (Sydney Swans). ... Serie A side Lazio announced a new partnership agreement with int'l fashion brand Domenico Vacca. The fashion house will dress the players of Lazio and the whole staff of the "Whites and Sky Blues" club starting with the '14-15 season (Lazio).