World Cup: ICC stumped by ambush marketing

Swetha Kannan Bangalore | Updated on February 25, 2011

Even with the ICC tightening its noose around non-sponsors, cases of ambush marketing seem to be piling up by the day.

“Each day we are reporting 10 violations of ICC guidelines to prevent ambush marketing. By the end of the World Cup, there may be around 400 violations. Already, 150 violations have been resolved across categories such as travel, ticketing or with players. We had sent legal notices to all of them and they have corrected the campaigns. So far, we have not had to litigate,” says a person working closely with the ICC to protect the IP rights of the World Cup.

Infringement of trademark and IP rights has not just happened in India, but also across Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. According to the ICC stipulations, only sponsors of the tournament are allowed to use ICC logos and World Cup trademarks.

There are also specific guidelines around the use of cricketers by non-sponsor brands — the biggest controversy that has surfaced during this World Cup is the use of Dhoni by Sony, which is not a tournament sponsor. The allegation is that of Sony using Dhoni in “blue” — which is not allowed according to the ICC guidelines.

“The issue has been sorted out with Sony changing the colour to blackish grey,” said the person working with ICC. But a Sony official said it has always used only grey. In fact, Sony recently came out with a clarification saying its campaign is compliant with ICC guidelines.

There were also reports of Aircel (which also has Dhoni as its brand ambassador) being involved in the ambush marketing issue. But the company has maintained a stoic silence over this. A plethora of rival brands have blocked on-air time on ESPN Star Sports, which is airing the World Cup live, much to the ire of the official sponsors.

According to Mr Ramanujam Sridhar, a brand consultant, the clauses around ambush marketing are probably a tad confusing and the marketer may still want to risk it, hoping to find legal recourse under some loophole, unless it is a blatant violation.

“Brands have as many lawyers as the ICC has. But the classic Coke Vs Pepsi case will not happen now. Today, with so many clauses, the marketer's thinking is also a bit more constrained than in 1996, thus impacting the zeal and vigour of marketing campaigns,” adds Mr Sridhar.

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Published on February 22, 2011
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