PARAGUAY: Ambush Advertising and the World Cup 2006
Ambush Advertising Concept
At its quest to catch as much public attention as possible and to achieve its objectives advertising uses all avenues that are available. Sometimes, these avenues are occasional or even accidental, but a good advertiser identifies them rapidly and knows how to get the most of them successfully.
The problem is that at times, external elements that could mean a great opportunity for an advertiser are not fortuitous nor are caused by mere natural reasons, but they are the result of a human conscious deliberated plan and effort which deserves protection based on intellectual property and other kind of norms.
And so, an attempt by a party to associate itself directly or indirectly to one of said propitious circumstances by including given wordings, sounds and/or images in ads or promotions without proper authorization –and of course without paying- is called “ambush advertising” or “ambush marketing".
Basically, unauthorized companies seek to relate their trademarks or products or services to trademarks or other distinctive symbol of the event, in order to bring about confusion and to take unfair advantage of the economic efforts of the organizers and its official sponsors and suppliers, which have invested considerable sums of money to be part of said event.
There are certain aspects that cause ambush advertising cases to be more frequent and blatant in relation to an event: popularity, proximity, among others.
The FIFA World Cup 2006
Football (or soccer) is a very simple game. Perhaps this is the reason it is one of the most popular sports in the world.
Every four years, the worldwide football authority, FIFA, organizes the World Cup, a one-month contest between teams from all countries, which results in the biggest worldwide event related to one single sport. The best players from each country are part of a team that looks to obtain first place at the competition and be considered as the best football team in the world. Winning is a great honor that is celebrated by all the citizens of the victorious country, who follow the matches with great attention and interest.
This year, the FIFA World Cup takes place in Germany. This event requires a huge financial investment that is obtained mostly from official sponsorships and suppliers.
In order to reward such economic input, FIFA grants official sponsors and suppliers exclusive rights to FIFA’s trademarks and marketing elements (such as entrance tickets to matches), so only they can use them for their own commercial activities and campaigns and increase their profits. No other company is allowed to use FIFA’s trademarks and elements without prior authorization of FIFA or its affiliates.
The opportunity to profit from this event, especially for those countries whose teams pass the preliminary rounds and earn the right to play there, is a great temptation, especially since not that many are strong. Although sometimes benefits come with no effort nor transgression. For example, it is very common to notice that sales of certain goods such as televisions and national soccer team’s T-shirts are increased extraordinarily from these games, sales of which do not require advertising.
However, in order to concentrate on sales or to encourage the sale of products that are not benefited by the World Cup on their own, undue ambush advertising is widely used in terms of promotions and/or use of elements for ads related to said competition.
Ambush advertising in Paraguay
In Paraguay, where fondness for football reaches fanaticism, as in many other countries, there is a great sense of anxiety as Paraguay’s national soccer team is one of the four teams from South America that gained the right to be at the FIFA World Cup in Germany last June 2005.
As a consequence, companies that were not related to the FIFA World Cup 2006 in economic terms launched promotions that included FIFA’s trademarks or elements and/or that offered travel packages to the World Cup that included entrance tickets to matches as prizes. This is true in the following two cases.
The “Munich” World Cup 2006 Promotion
The company committed to cease use of FIFA’s trademarks but refused to exclude entrance tickets to matches from the prizes.
Since there were no legal solid fundaments to file a quick and effective judicial action to stop this promotion, FIFA decided to inform the public through newspapers and other forms of media that any entrance tickets to World Cup matches that were obtained as a prize from a promotion conducted by companies that aren't official sponsors will be deemed as void and could be annulled by the Organization Committee. Therefore, any person with such tickets can be banned from entering the stadiums and can be even expelled.
After such maneuver, the local company notified that they would finish their promotion once the first part was finished.
The “Personna” Promotion
A local import company launched a promotion in relation to one of its products, a razor called “PERSONNA” and offered as the main prize a trip to the World Cup 2006 in Germany that included entrance tickets to matches.
Warning notices were mailed to the company, in order to inform them that free distribution of tickets was illegal and was banned by FIFA.
The company was also advised that any entrance ticket to World Cup matches obtained from a promotion would be considered void and the Organization Committee will cancel them.
In spite of these warnings, the local import company continued promotion until the end as previously planned.
As in many countries, in Paraguay there is no legislation that deals with and prevents ambush advertising specifically.
It is considered as an expression of unfair competition in general, and so any claim related to ambush advertising should be conducted at a full trial procedure, which is complicated and lasts too long. Besides, judges do not have a uniform criterion in this field.
For such reason, it is necessary to create a proper legislation related to ambush advertising that will allow affected parties to obtain a measure or a solution promptly.
Ambush marketing is a complicated subject, there are situations that require a profound analysis to determine whether it should be considered ambush advertising or not. For example:
- In case of use of general wording or images that are not related to the event and that are not protected under IP laws.
- Advertising activities of entities that are not related those responsible for the event but to one of its affiliates (for example, a company that sponsors a national soccer team but not the FIFA World Cup).
Perhaps it is a good opportunity to start working on this field more decidedly, so for the next World Cup a more complete and efficient effort can be conducted against ambush marketing.