World Cup over, but FIFA still fighting ambush marketers


The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has waged an ongoing battle against companies seeking to associate themselves with the World Cup through suggestive marketing campaigns. In a deliberate attempt to profit from the world's most popular sporting event, ambush marketers have scored big through deceptive advertising in both online and offline markets.

FIFA has been particularly aggressive in stopping the sale of goods on the Internet. In addition, in April US Customs seized a shipment containing a counterfeit football-related software application for PDAs (personal digital assistants), travelling from Hong Kong to Mexico.

FIFA has worked closely with Korean and Japanese officials to protect the nearly $640 million raised from official sponsors and licensing fees for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The pervasiveness of ambush marketing in this year's World Cup also induced Coca-Cola Co, Adidas-Salomon AG and other official sponsors to insist that FIFA take forceful action to prevent rival companies from sneaking their own goods and logos into the games, and online.

To prevent a decline in the value of sponsorship, FIFA spent $7.7 million registering large groups of defensive trademarks resembling the official KOREA/JAPAN 2002 mark, which had itself been designed in such a way as to render it more difficult to reproduce than past marks. FIFA also formed "rights protection teams" to monitor stadiums and the Internet to prevent ambushes.

In addition, even before the World Cup began, FIFA brought a case in Argentina against non-sponsor PepsiCo Inc for its advertisements featuring top international soccer players under a banner that read 'Tokyo 2002'. The court ruled that this evoked a "presumed sponsorship relationship" and ordered Pepsi to pull the ads. FIFA declared this ruling a victory, but Pepsi fired back, stating that the ads had already stopped airing in Argentina yet continued to run in other international markets, including the United States.

Although the World Cup is now over, FIFA must continue to fight the ambush battle online and off in an effort to protect its famous WORLD CUP trademark and maintain its valuable corporate sponsorships.

James L Bikoff and Patrick L Jones, Silverberg, Goldman & Bikoff, Washington DC

Unlock unlimited access to all WTR content