By Hannah Lichter
It’s no secret that exploiting sport means big bikkies these days, with millions of people tuning in to watch live events across many platforms of media. Together with entertainment, it has become a hugely successful advertising tool. There are, however, limits that the law imposes on the use of advertising in sports. It is said that ‘sport has become a significant international currency’. For example, the global sports industry accounts for 3% of world trade and more than 1% of GNP of the EU. To acquire the broadcasting rights to the Olympics from 1996 to 2008, NBC had to pay US$4 billion. The economic value to a wide variety of markets including soft drinks, car manufacturers and more recently even diet promoters like Jenny Craig is obvious with marketing budgets continually reinvested into promotional opportunities in sport.
Sport and tobacco is a forbidden partnership in most markets with strict international legislation based on the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of 2003.
Alcohol is also banned for very similar public policy motives, being it would be misleading to promote such unhealthy substances with physical activity and peak performance and health. Regardless of old associations of particularly beer with certain sports and Budweiser and baseball (on the Simpsons) this is no longer tolerated. In Australia this is stringent however this is not yet International. EU regulation does not create a ban on alcoholic advertising it merely must not be directed at young people and only some member states prohibit alcoholic advertising altogether.
The difficulty in regulating sponsorship rights in a public event of any kind is fuelled by the continuing success of ambush marketing. This ‘concerns tactics by brand competitors to spoil official sports sponsorship activation campaigns’ (Lague). This is normally achieved through unauthorised association with a business or an element of a business (i.e. trademark), event, team or individual (Gardiner and Gray). Legal regulation of this area can be used as a preventative measure as well a disciplinary tool however ambush marketing is still difficult to police and may or may not be intentional. For example, Usain Bolt prominently displayed his Puma shoes after his victories in Beijing despite the official sportswear sponsor being Adidas.
The legal environment worldwide requires improvement to create a more unified legislative system and significant legislative acknowledgement of the investment by sport’s stakeholders, which will provide security to the sport, their stakeholders and therefore a better quality professional sport for the benefit of participants, viewers, stakeholders and the public.
This blog is for discussion purposes only. This must not be considered legal advice.
For legal advice on this topic and references to any information in this article, please contact
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