Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 24 May 2019

Ambush marketing: Beats adds extra bite to World Cup

Choice of headphones becomes a matter of concern for lawyers - aside from the on field behaviour of a certain striker.

You would think that a Brazilian player’s choice of headphones would not be a matter of concern for lawyers at the World Cup, especially with a Uruguayan biting an Italian on live television.

However, Neymar’s Beats branded headphones did indeed raise the ire of football’s world governing body, Fifa, as did those of the future Chiellini chomper Luis Suarez.

Players were subsequently banned from wearing Beats cans in World Cup venues.

The gifting of Beats headphones to prominent international players was a classic case of ambush marketing, an aspect of sponsorship that provides plenty of work for sports lawyers.

Ambush marketing is defined by the European Sponsorship Association as a situation “where brands have developed and run creative marketing campaigns using the opportunity to push the boundaries and sometimes give the impression that they are an event sponsor, when they are not”.

Beats headphones on this occasion were alleged to have been treading on the toes of the official World Cup sponsor Sony, which sent out free headphones to all participating players. Few appear to have been wearing them.

Emirates cried foul over ambush marketing in the World Cup of 2006, where it acted as the tournament’s official airline. The carrier protested (ultimately unsuccessfully) when Lufthansa ran a series of advertisements featuring several footballers and painted the nose cones of its fleet to resemble footballs.

While the UAE has robust intellectual property legislation in place, the country would be wise to introduce regulations specifically targeting ambush marketing, as happened in the run up to the London Olympics in 2012, says Joby Beretta of Dentons.

“For hosting agreements of sports events in the UAE you’ll see an obligation on the venue host to intervene if there’s any ambush marketing happening within their grounds,” he says.

“What you can’t do at the moment is take action outside of sports grounds when ambush marketing is occurring in public spaces. It’s definitely something that will need tackling, but the UAE’s been pretty good about bringing out new sports legislation when it’s needed.”

One of the most notorious (and celebrated) instances of ambush marketing on the sporting stage came in the European football championships of 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, centring on a controversial pair of underwear.

In a group match between Denmark and Portugal, the Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner raised his shirt after scoring his second goal, revealing his underwear bearing the brand name of the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power.

Bentner, a professional footballer, claimed he did not know he was doing anything wrong, but received a €100,000 (Dh501,286) fine and a one match ban from competitive international football from Uefa.

Paddy Power, well known for its bad-taste adverts, gladly paid Bentner’s fine as well as his fee. To quote a blog on the bookmaker’s website last year, “We here at Paddy Power love a bit of controversy.

“Especially if it gets our name in the papers.”


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Updated: June 28, 2014 04:00 AM