Running successful sports promotions

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21st November 2019
November ASA Rulings Recap
3rd December 2019

At last week’s Breakfast Briefing, we discussed taking advantage of the 2020 sporting events by running engaging prize promotions that are in line with the law. Amy Powell, our Compliance Manager together with Lizzie Liebenhals – top celebrity sporting agent and founder of Halls & Halls – revealed what makes a campaign successful, legal factors to be aware of and what you must do to avoid a promotional disaster.

2020 is a year filled with major sporting fixtures including the Olympics, the Euros and the T20 Cricket World Cup as well as the usual annual events such as Wimbledon and the Grand Prix. Whether you’re a sponsor or a partner, or you simply want to ‘get in on the game’, you need to be aware of the strict rules that govern these events and the broader issues that come with them, that are often overlooked. Below we have compiled some of the main considerations for brands and agencies running campaigns during sporting events.

Copyright and Branding
  • Copyright is the legal and exclusive right to copy or permit to be copied a specific work of art or creation, for instance the Olympic rings or the FIFA World Cup logo.
  • If copyright on something is owned, someone else cannot use or replicate it without express permission therefore you can’t use the assets of the official organisers without permission or sponsorship rights
  • Copyright covers logos, branding, venues, slogans, content and music e.g. anthems.
Misleading Consumers and The Rules
  • All 28 members of the EU are signed up to the principle of the Consumer Protection Regulations / UCPD and a key part of this 2008 law is that brands should not mislead the consumer, either by what they say or by significant omissions, i.e. what they do not say.
  • Implicit in this would be misleading consumers by implying that your brand is an official sponsor of a sporting event when it is not.
  • Attempts at implying brand affiliation e.g. using guerrilla marketing, is risky and can lead to action from rights holders – if you plan to do this ensure that your campaign doesn’t break the rules
  • Negotiations for rights holding can take years…start early and be prepared to pay.
  • Avoid using logos, theme tunes, artwork, venues and branding. Don’t even mimic!
 Alcohol & Sporting Events – Portman Group UK Guidelines
  • Drinks companies must ensure there is a recognisable commitment to promoting responsible drinking and/or supporting diversionary/community activities, considering the size, scale, reach, and length of the sponsorship.
  • You cannot use sports people in your marketing communications that look under the age of 25
  • Brands should use their reasonable endeavours to prevent the indirect appearance of their branding on merchandise or within games or promotional materials which have appeal to under-18s (for example, a photograph of a player in branded kit being re-produced on a child’s single duvet cover).
  • Care should be taken if a permanently alcohol-sponsored venue hosts an event at which less than 75% of the audience is aged over-18; every effort should be made to cover alcohol branding for the duration of that event.
  • When promoting sponsorship of sports that focus on aggression, or are inherently dangerous for participants, companies are encouraged to emphasise the positive aspects of individual skills, teamwork, precision etc.
The Olympic Games – Rule 40

The International Olympic Committee’s Rule 40, limits athletes from working with their own sponsors during the Olympic Games to ensure exclusivity for the Olympic sponsors. This year it was amended to allow competitors to allow their ‘person, name, picture or sports performances be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games’.

Individual national Olympic committees have further relaxed the restrictions so that their athletes can have marketing freedom during the Games and athletes can negotiate with them directly for concessions.

Ambush Marketing

A form of marketing used by brands to take advantage of a major events, usually sports, without them being an official partner or sponsor. Two types:

  • Ambush by association: This occurs when non-sponsors aim to directly associate themselves with the event and use iconography and copy that is related to the main event. This can be done either directly, for example, presenting an image that it is officially affiliated with the event when it is not, or indirectly, through implication and variant images, logos, words or trademarks. Event organisers seek to protect themselves through regulation.
  • Opportunistic advertising: This is the art of injecting your brand into breaking news stories linked to the event in order to generate media coverage in regular or social media channels – without the use of trademarked imagery/wordings.

If you and your team could not attend our event and want to learn more about this topic, please contact and we will be able to arrange a time to come to your office and deliver this training session, free of charge!

Also, keep your eyes peeled for info on our first event of 2020…

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