The Euros and the Olympic Games: Another Ambush Marketing Opportunity? – Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment


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It is well known that sporting events of great international resonance such as the 2020 European Football Championship which just ended with the victory of the Italian team, or the Tokyo Olympics 2020 – both postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic – have significant commercial and economic value also thanks to the sponsorship contracts of brand owners who aim to achieve massive media recognition, securing exclusivity against huge investments.

Hence a more than tempting opportunity for those who want to “ride the wave” and gain visibility through so-called ambush marketing.

Ambush marketing is a phenomenon of undue and unauthorized parasitic advertising, carried out by economic operators who exploit a media event by using their brand without being part of the official sponsors, and thus succeeding in gaining visibility with the public and therefore a economic profit without having borne the significant costs of sponsorship.

Undoubtedly, among the most famous examples of savage marketing are the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, in which Nike was enough to post photos of two-gold winner Ben Johnson posing with his medals and Nike brand shoes with which he had run and won. In this way, Nike thus found itself indelibly associated with these Olympic Games even though the official sponsor was Reebok.

In Italy, the matter is regulated by the recent law n. 31 of 2020, which, by virtue of art. 10, s. 2, distinguishes several types of ambush marketing: in particular ambush by association; false statement or advertising statement that an entity is an official sponsor of an event mentioned above; the promotion of its own brand or other distinctive sign by any activity not authorized by the organizer; the sale and advertising of illegally marked products or services.

Regulatory intervention was necessary in order to introduce in advance specific provisions capable of settling the issue with a view to the next Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Milan Cortina 2026 and the ATP Turin 2021 – 2025 final and, at the same time, to protect the interests of those who could be potentially harmed by uninvited marketing – in particular event planners, sponsors and the public.

However, the phenomenon of ambush marketing does not only occur at sporting events, but it can also manifest itself in other high profile events. A recent Milan court ruling, No. 2547/2020, for example, resolved a dispute between two of Italy’s biggest mobile phone companies, Tim and Wind, with reference to the aforementioned issue.

In short, in the said affair Tim – in co-marketing with Disney – had made an agreement with an advertising agency called Armosia to create a promotional campaign when the famous Star Wars movie was released, thus creating a legitimate association with the cinema well. known. In the same period of the release of the Star Wars movie, Wind decided to use one of the characters from the famous saga, the BB-8 droid, “in advertising and / or promotional campaigns for its products and / or services. “without any authorization from Disney.

In particular, Wind launched a promotion (having the nature of a price transaction) offering the BB-8 toys, which in itself was not illegal, as it is of course allowed to resell the products purchased from the owner. legitimate and even to advertise such a resale, but what was not considered acceptable by Tim and the ad agency was the particular positioning and prominence given to the BB-8 character in the Wind’s promotional material which inevitably made it the main attraction of Wind’s advertising campaign, so Wind appeared to have licensed Disney exactly like competitor Tim.

Therefore, Tim and Armosia sued Wind and sought compensation for the damages. The Milan court recognized all the complaints raised by them, declaring the occurrence of unfair competition, savage marketing and copyright infringement for improperly linking the Wind brand, its products and services and the Star Wars saga.

The constant monitoring of promotional activities by the organizers and sponsors of sports matches or other events with high media coverage can be an excellent prevention tool, however countering ambush marketing often turns out to be a difficult ambition, if you don’t. not act on time and without the help of intellectual property experts.

Indeed, given the short duration that characterizes these events with strong media coverage, it is useful to rely on Intellectual Property professionals, competent to assess the most appropriate strategies in a timely manner and verify the correctness of their actions. also at an advertising level.

In order to stop or prevent savage marketing, intellectual property attorneys can provide the most reliable advice both to sponsors of media events in the eventual defense of their economic interests and to companies which unintentionally have the intention to refer to sponsors who may interfere with any of the sponsorship agreements of third parties or potentially with the intellectual property rights of a third party.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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