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| 2 minutes read

Major sporting events in 2020 – the brand protection challenge

2020 is set to be a big year for sporting events with the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games, Euro 2020, Ryder Cup and new The Hundred competition taking place to name just a small number. With 3 million tickets available for the Euros across its 12 host cities and the number of tickets available for Tokyo 2020 estimated at over 9 million, the opportunities for brand sponsors are plentiful. As such, event organisers and stakeholders are getting ready to tackle the issue of ambush marketing and protecting the right to associate with these events to ensure their future success and viability and to make sure the focus is on the sports taking place. We note the British Olympic Association is already readying itself to challenge the use of its imagery by non-sponsoring brands around the time of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo following its success in reaching out-of-court settlements with 24 companies in relation to the 2018 Winter Olympics.

However it is not just use of brand assets such as event trade marks and mascots that can be a source of ambush, but also use of athlete images and event tickets for example. There are issues that must also be considered by brands and organisations to ensure they do not fall foul of the rules.

For example, the BOA set out its new guidelines at the end of last year in response to the IOCs relaxation of Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter which governs use of athletes and their image in advertising during the Games Period – see link here. The guidance issued by the different national Olympic Associations does vary in their interpretation and should be carefully considered.

In a similar vein, with Glasgow being one of the host cities for the Euros taking place this summer, the Scottish Parliament has recently passed a bill which bans ticket touting for Euro 2020 matches and imposes a fine of up to £5,000 on those caught reselling tickets as required for host cities – see here. The bill also sets out three zones during the tournament where restrictions on street trading and advertising will be imposed. While the bill aims to help ensure fair access to tickets for as many people as possible, tickets can also be used as a form of ambush marketing so this legislation together with the ticketing terms and conditions – which, for example, prohibit ticket holders from using tickets for promotions, advertising, prizes or hospitality packages - will provide protection for these events and event goers (see the terms and conditions here).

It will be interesting to see what tactics are used and which of the various options available to event organisers are used to thwart ambush marketing efforts during this years’ sporting events.

“Lawyers at the British Olympic Association are gearing themselves up to tackle a wave of unauthorised use of Olympic images and symbols in the run-up to the Tokyo Games”