sports in the spotlight

Branded Streakers Beware: New Zealand in Ambush Marketing Lockdown for Rugby World Cup

Posted by Mark J. Miller on August 31, 2011 02:54 PM

If you are headed to New Zealand in the next two months — whether to go to the seventh Rugby World Cup that runs from Sept. 9 to Oct. 22 or not — you might want to leave any branded clothing at home for fear that you may be accused of ambush marketing.

The event's Kiwi organizers are making good on their threat to throw the book (and a few other things) at anyone who even comes close to thinking about performing the act of ambush marketing or using the World Cup’s logo without actually paying the fees to be a sponsor of the event.

"It's the malicious corporate ambush where people invest tens of thousands of dollars in intricate campaigns, those are the ones we're after,” said International Rugby Board general manager Ross Young, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Some famous examples at large sporting events include when Nike built its own branded village at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta rather than paying the $50 million sponsorship fee or when 36 orange-clad women were thrown out of a World Cup soccer game in South Africa last year as they attempted to promote a Dutch brewery.

New Zealand officials are ready for anything, though. 

Advertising agency TBWA chief executive David Walden tells the newspaper that an ambush-marketing classic is to have “a streaker with Vodafone across their bottom running across the field” when the team or game was sponsored by a competitor. The security company hired apparently “had a special team that had been trained to restrain and deal with pitch invaders,” Darien Security human resources manager said human resources manager Colin Brown said.

The Herald notes that organizers sent out “hundreds of educational letters with cartoons and pictures … explaining what companies can and can't do.” All of the 12 stadia involved will have so-called “clean zones” around them that cannot contain any advertising and teams of people would patrol them each night to be sure none suddenly appeared. There will also be “up to 35 council officers (on) patrol … every match night, looking for any leaflets, freebies, posters, billboards or products that don't have a permit,” the Herald reports. 

While some feel it's overly punitive on small local brands looking to cash in on the event's buzz and tourism pull, it's all a move to protect official sponsors including BlackBerry, Microsoft, Toshiba, Coca-Cola, and Emirates Airline, of course.

RWC security is putting its muscle, by the way, into other kinds of threats the event may attract, including forming an anti-doping agency.

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