Is unofficial advertising around sports events playing by the rules?

By Mitchell H Stabbe

The international rules on ambush marketing and promotional activities surrounding sports events present a complex maze for counsel to navigate

When Dan Snyder purchased the Washington DC National Football League (NFL) franchise, one of his first actions was to take the unprecedented step of charging fans who came to watch pre-season practices at the team’s training camp facility. In the same year, he threatened to sue local television news stations if, as they had done for years, they used the term ‘Redskins’ as part of the name of programmes that discussed the week’s game. He also sold the naming rights to virtually every segment of the team’s radio broadcasts, including announcing the scores from other games, providing listeners with the temperature on the field and injury reports. On one occasion, there was even sponsorship of a sponsored segment (“The GMRI scoreboard is brought to you by McDonald’s Restaurants”). Lampooning these (and other) actions, a nationally syndicated cartoon ran a strip where, after being told how fans would gather around the coffee machine on Mondays to discuss the game, the fictional Snyder asked if there were some way to charge them for talking about the team.

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