Brands including Microsoft, Land Rover, BlackBerry, and Toshiba have paid big bucks to be the sponsors of the Rugby World Cup, which is currently underway in New Zealand. The country and organization made a very big deal this summer about how they are going to do everything possible to curtail any little inkling of ambush marketing in order to protect the corporations that were shelling out to be officially part of the fun.
Now the RWC is getting its first test and it’s not from any corporate giant that has creatively found a way to sneak its logo into RWC matches. It’s from a strip bar.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that one such establishment in Wellington, NZ, sent out “scantily clad women in stilettos and ‘All Blacks’ uniforms emblazoned with silver ferns” to hand out two-for-one flyers to match attendees in the wake of the first match the town hosted during the event: South Africa v. Wales on Sept. 11.
The bar, Mermaids, “could face $NZ150,000 ($144.500) in fines” if it does any such thing again, the paper reports. Mermaids made a good chunk of change after the match but then received a warning letter a few days later from the police, Wellington City Council and the Economic Development Ministry that told it that it had “reached the Major Events Management Act (MEMA) and a bylaw relating to sex industry advertising,” the Herald notes.
"This letter is to advise you that prosecution action will be considered should you engage in any further advertising or promotional activity within, or visible from, the Wellington Regional Stadium clean zone during the declared clean periods around future Rugby World Cup matches," the letter read, in part, according to the Morning Herald.
The club didn’t seem to think its actions (which recalled Bavaria Beer's 2010 FIFA World Cup stunt) were that big a deal. "We thought it was very much in the spirit of the Rugby World Cup, especially the girls in rugby outfits, and the guys loved it,” said Hayden Power from B and M Entertainment, which manages the bar, the Herald reports. "The guys usually have a few beers at the venue and are looking for something else and there's not much in the way of girls they can talk to."
The "guys" may be amused, but RWC organizers and the city of Wellington are not. Ambush marketing is a no-no, while local officials, naturally, would like to project a more wholesome image to tourists.
"What are we as a city trying to promote?” asked Council regulatory stream leader Robert Tierney, the Herald reports. "Clearly it's not what we really want visitors to the city to be seeing as the best attraction. The city has tried to present itself in its best light, so perhaps this type of activity is not the type of activity we'd like to see associated with the event."