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Sports and Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual Property (IP) rights (patents, industrial designs, trademarks, copyright, etc.) are usually associated with an industry, usually the manufacturing industry. Intellectual property rights give the owner of the intellectual property exclusivity for a limited period of time. But organizers of sporting events use IP laws to capitalize on interest in particular sports.
Sports activities began as a hobby or pastime event to enable participants to enjoy the sport or as a form of exercise. Now some games have developed into huge international events, or more properly international businesses with their own “custom” law. Such international events even challenge the sovereign laws of countries.
Popular games such as football, golf, tennis, basketball, cricket, sailing, car racing, and so on have developed into international events with huge followings, creating huge marketing potential for the organisers. Organizers of popular games such as FIFA (soccer), PGA (golf), NBA (basketball), and so on organize and manage the events, typically international competitions in such a way as to get the most value from others who want to take advantage of the marketing. the potential of the events offered.
To begin with, the organizers create a distinctive logo, emblem or phrase(s) to identify the event. If the logos or emblems are original, they would also be protected as copyright works.
For example, the 2010 FIFA World Cup emblem is protected as a trademark and as an artistic work under copyright laws. Terms such as “2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa”, “2010 FIFA World Cup”, “2010 World Cup”, “Football World Cup” and similar derivatives are also protected against unauthorized use and subject to applicable laws in the various jurisdictions.
As the logo/emblem/phrases (“event identifiers”) are heavily promoted in the mainstream media, they are easily and quickly associated with the event by the public and thus acquire strong brand value. Event organizers then go on to exploit the value of the trademark to other businesses.
Let us look at different revenue streams for the organisers. The first line of revenue is sponsorship fees. This includes the right to display the sponsor’s trade mark inside the venue/stadium of the games, the right to use the event identifiers on articles produced by the sponsors or the right to use the event identifier in connection with a service (eg banking, credit card (VISA). ), business process outsourcing (Mahindra Satyam)), or placement rights (eg, a specific luxury watch brand next to tee boxes at golf courses).
The second line of revenue is perch collection. Even here the printing of tickets can be sponsored – the ticket bearing the trademark of the sponsoring party.
The third source of revenue is the exclusive supply of products for the games, such as soccer balls, tennis balls, shuttlecocks (badminton), fuel and lubricants (auto racing), etc. The supplier of the articles has the right to describe themselves as the “official supplier” to promote their articles and advertise themselves as the exclusive provider of such articles. Ironically, although Adidas was a top tier sponsor/partner at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, it was Nike that attracted more of the viewers’ attention, be it through the players’ football boots or clever advertising spots. Is this a case of poor sponsorship strategy by Adidas?
The fourth source of revenue, and increasingly the most profitable source of revenue, is the exclusive right to record and broadcast the event over television and radio, and possibly over the internet in the near future. The broadcasting rights are given to regional and national broadcasting networks. All copyright in relation to the recording and broadcasting of the games is retained by the organizers or licensed to specific entities.
Finally, the organizers also grant exclusive rights to manufacturers to produce and sell mascot merchandise or products bearing the event’s identifier in exchange for the payment of a royalty fee.
The organizers have a wide stream of revenue, namely:
1. Sponsorship fees
2. Gateway collection
3. Exclusive rights to use product at an event
4. Broadcasting rights
5. Merchandising rights
Apart from the organizers of the event, other manufacturers and service providers take advantage by sponsoring sportswear and match equipment of specific teams or players. Consider the brand of the player’s T-shirt, shorts, cap, gloves, shoes, socks, etc. In South Africa, boots of a non-sponsor brand worn by the players were just as prominent (if not more so) than those of one of the official sponsors. In the case of race car drivers, have you ever seen plain drivers overalls? Conversely, the driver’s overall, including the crash helmet is often plastered with a variety of trademarks.
Even the refreshments/drinks consumed by the player during the game are sponsored, and full advertising value is taken advantage of. Here the advertisement of the trademark is not the advertisement of the product, like what appears in a TV commercial, but the trademark or product is intrinsically related to a successful player. What more convincing message can be produced, if not for a world-class player using the advertiser’s product?
Apart from the organizers who earn revenue as already said, players, especially the best players in the games, often endorse products or services or businesses related to sports and even those that are not involved in sports. For example, Tiger Woods not only endorses golf clubs, balls, T-shirts, caps, etc. but also endorses watches, consulting services, and personal hygiene products (Note: He was suspended/dropped from the last two later following his crimes); Maria Sharapova, one of the best tennis players, endorses shoes and clothes, cameras and watches, among others; and soccer player Ronaldinho has endorsement contracts with Pepsi, Nike and Sony.
To maximize revenue streams, organizers of major sporting events such as FIFA must strictly enforce their trademark rights and take action against those who associate themselves with their trademark without permission the organizer. Unless the organizers take strict action against offenders, it is unlikely that they would demand high sponsorship rates for future events, let alone breach the potential sponsorship contract.
Unfortunately, IP laws were not designed for such periodic international events. Many manufacturers or service providers would like to be associated with such prominent international events that attract TV audiences in the billions, but either they don’t have the opportunity or they can’t afford the fees and costs. So they try to associate their product / service with the event without the permission of the event organizer. This is where “surveillance marketing” comes into play. Event organizers are having a field day taking action against such marketers. But whether a particular event or ad constitutes covert marketing is unclear under conventional IP laws. To avoid this, countries, especially the countries hosting the event, are often required to enact specific laws to deal with ambush marketing before they have the opportunity to host the event. Britain had to enact the London Olympic and Paralympic Games Act 2006 before the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The trademark “London 2012” is protected.
The next question arises as to how and in what way the revenue arising from the event, say the FIFA World Cup 2010, is spent. Who benefits from the revenue? That, will be the subject of another article for another day.
Note: The trademarks and designs noted in the article belong to their respective owners. The author does not claim any proprietary right at all; they are used for educational purposes only.
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