Bangalore: At the Fifa World Cup last June in South Africa, 36 women sporting orange T-shirts promoting Dutch beer brand Bavaria were watching the match between Denmark and the Netherlands. The women stood out and they seemed to want to—in an attempt to use the event watched by millions to advertise a product that didn’t have the right to do so at the venue (one of the sponsors for the event was the South African beer brand Castle Lager). The South African police swung into action. The spectators were charged with what is known as ambush marketing—an attempt by a set of individuals or company (possible rival of a sponsor of a big event) to utilize the tournament to advertise their wares.
Now, the organizer of another global sporting competition, albeit in another sport and to be hosted in another country, is working hard to prevent similar incidents.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has enlisted the services of Copyright Integrity International (CII), an intellectual property rights (IPR) firm headquartered in Bangalore, to check instances of ambush marketing and copyright infringement during the upcoming cricket World Cup.
On the vigil: The office of Copyright Integrity International, and (above) ICC spotters for the World Cup matches. Each stadium hosting a match will have a dozen spotters, who will be keeping a close eye on the crowd for cases of ambush marketing. Photographs by Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
“The aim of ICC’s commercial rights protection programme is to maintain the exclusivity of our sponsors’ association with our events,” said Campbell Jamieson, general manager (commercial), ICC.
CII has already worked with the ICC on a number of previous events.
CII’s work “will include not only the monitoring and enforcement of infringements but also an education programme for the public that will ensure wholesome enjoyment of the event with due respect to the ICC’s commercial partners and sponsors,” said Clinton Free, chief executive, CII. Already, ICC and CII have brought out a list of dos and dont’s (http://static.icc-cricket.yahoo.net/ugc/documents).
CII also has to ensure compliance, and that’s far more tricky. The work, according to Nandan Kamath, chief legal counsel, CII, begins with stadiums.
“ICC first gives us what are called clean venues in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh (the three hosts of the tournament), which means a stadium ready for the advertisers to fix in their slots and hoardings. For instance, even the bar at the stadium may have a sticker or hoarding of a rival sponsor or some other firm that doesn’t have the right to advertise there. Even those are taped or removed.”
But the rights of the official sponsors aren’t limited to the stadium. It even extends beyond that.
“On average, a 2km area surrounding any given venue for the event constitutes a ‘World Cup zone’,” said Kamath. “Within the perimeter of the World Cup zone, no other company apart from an official sponsor will be able to advertise its products or sell its wares.” (So, if Reliance Communications Ltd is one of the official sponsors of the World Cup, then Bharti Airtel Ltd or any other mobile phone service provider, which isn’t an official sponsor, doesn’t have the right to advertise within that zone.)
CII has sent its list of dos and don’ts to companies here and elsewhere. The document also lists the damages they may have to pay should they flout the rules. In addition, “the host city provides certain guarantees to the ICC, which includes prevention of ambush marketing and unlicensed commercial activity around the perimeter of the stadium..., team hotels, airports, parking areas...” according to Kamath.
Licensed hoardings near the stadium will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis when the stadium is handed over to ICC for the duration of the World Cup.
Once the stadium is ready, other sections of ICC step in. Every ICC World Cup venue will have a lawyer from the ICC’s legal branch along with a dozen “spotters”. “Spotters are people watching the crowd for any case of ambush marketing,” said Kamath. The spotters will also do their spotting in the World Cup zone. And if there is an infringement, it is up to ICC to assess its seriousness and the action that needs to be taken.
“If there is a clear case of a bunch of people wearing T-shirts promoting a brand that doesn’t have the right to do so, the ICC lawyer will have the right to take action—either ask them to change their wear or put it on inside out,” said Kamath. “But we are keen that it mustn’t infringe on individual rights.”
But copyright violations and ambush marketing efforts could happen not just in stadia, but on the Internet. CII has created a software programme to track websites streaming games or leveraging the World Cup in some way. The programme automatically clicks a screenshot of the offending site and sends a warning to the site’s owners, said Kamath. Thus far, he added, the programme has sent such warnings to 50 websites in connection with the 2011 World Cup.
The work of ICC and CII is rendered more complex by the absence of an effective legal framework. “Ambush marketing and IP infringement are two different issues,” said V.C. Vivekanandan, professor of intellectual property law, Nalsar University of Law, Hyderabad.
According to Vivekanandan, “there are clear laws and remedies” for copyright infringement but it may be difficult to prevent instances of ambush marketing and prosecute offenders “in the absence of clear legal avenues”.
The real challenge is outside the venues usually and dealing with ambush marketing here will “require specific laws or one has to rely on unfair competition principles”, he added.
Some countries deal with this by enacting special laws ahead of such sporting events.
Vivekanand said that New Zealand plans such a law for the rugby World Cup this year and the cricket World Cup in 2015. “The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 contain provisions to attempt to restrict ambush advertising at the 2012 Summer Olympics.”
He also says that the phenomenon is not new. “For the 2011 rugby World Cup and the 2015 cricket World Cup, New Zealand is planning to enact laws to combat ambush marketing.”