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Weil: We must protect stakeholders' rights

Thierry Weil, FIFA's Marketing Director and responsible for ticket sales, speaks during a press conference
© Getty Images

The topic of brand protection and rights holders’ work to protect themselves and their sponsors from ambush marketing activities is often a hot topic surrounding major sporting events. It is also a topic which leads to a lot of misunderstanding. For that reason FIFA have been engaging in extensive communication measures to ensure that key issues are addressed long before the 2014 FIFA World Cup™.

This work included a recent tour to all FIFA Confederations Cup Host Cities where FIFA’s Brand Protection team met with local businesses, Host City representatives and members of the media to provide information and answer questions on this topic.

FIFA’s Marketing Director Thierry Weil has taken the time to discuss this work with, focusing on the key questions which were raised across the six events:

Who is allowed to use tournament marks of the FIFA World Cup, such as images of the Official Emblem, Official Mascot and the Trophy and wordmarks such as ‘Brazil 2014’, ‘Copa 2014’ etc..?
Only authorised event stakeholders of the FIFA World Cup are allowed to use such marks. These groups include FIFA, the LOC, governmental entities, FIFA’s Commercial Affiliates, Host Cities, and media outlets for the purpose of news reporting.

What is not allowed is the usage of these marks for commercial gain by third parties, either by putting the marks on products or by using the marks in advertising material. Such use by third party companies is a basic attempt to commercially benefit from the event, without contributing to it as our Commercial Affiliates do, and this is something we would take action against.

If I don’t use the registered trademarks and just use the word ‘Copa’ in my advertising or promotion work is this fine?
No, the same principal applies to this as this is a clear attempt to link your business activities with the event. FIFA of course has no exclusivity on the terms ‘Copa’ or ‘2014’ but if these terms are used to make reference to our events we will need to review it and possibly have to take action.

If FIFA has not registered trademarks for terms such as ‘Copa’, how can you stop me from using these terms?
Specific legislation has been implemented to prevent illegal marketing categories which refer to the FIFA World Cup. This legislation specifically prohibits ambush marketing by association, giving FIFA the opportunity to take action against those who seek to take commercial advantage of the goodwill vested in our events through ambush marketing.

What are the reasons for conducting these brand protection activities?
It is extremely important that we protect the rights of the stakeholders authorized to associate themselves with the FIFA World Cup as FIFA relies on the FIFA World Cup and the revenues generated from this event in order to fund not only future editions of the event, but also all of its football development work, corporate social responsibility campaigns and youth tournaments all over the world. If we do not protect the rights of the authorized stakeholders and the exclusivity is not respected, there is a risk that the tournament fails to attract the necessary sponsorship.  For that reason we need to protect the rights of our authorised stakeholders, including sponsors who not only financially support the event but also contribute to the fan experience through promotions and experiential events.

Just imagine that you pay money to rent a garage and you arrive home one night to find that someone else has parked in your space. This is the sort of situation we are trying to prevent through our work against ambush marketers.  

Is FIFA the only organisation who carries out such work?
Absolutely not. This is common practice amongst organisers of major sporting events as well as non-sporting events such as the famous Brazilian carnival. Large companies around the world also seek to ensure that their competitors are not gaining the exposure which they have invested time and money in to acquire exclusive rights. Basically, any sponsored event should be and probably are carrying out this work. If I was a sponsor I certainly wouldn’t commit my marketing budget to an event without knowing what work is happening to prevent non-sponsor companies from benefiting unfairly.

Does this apply to any company or just to competitors of your sponsors?
Unfortunately we are not in the position to distinguish between large corporations that directly compete with our sponsors and smaller local businesses with less reach. However, we are doing all we can to inform these smaller businesses of the opportunities which they can expect from the arrival of the FIFA World Cup.

What are these opportunities?
People shouldn’t underestimate the impact which hosting a FIFA World Cup can have. In June and July 2014, Brazil can expect a huge influx of foreign visitors to the country and there is certainly the potential there for this to have positive effects for Brazilian businesses, especially those which have a direct link to the event.

Various types of Brazilian businesses, from food and drink outlets, to merchandise businesses and travel and tourism services, can expect a significant increase in consumers of their goods and can thus enjoy the increased financial aspects thanks to their involvement with the FIFA World Cup.

I’ve heard that local businesses which are located around the stadium are only allowed to sell products produced by FIFA sponsors?
This is absolutely not true. In fact businesses which are located around the stadiums are likely to benefit from their proximity to the action as they will be allowed to continue business as usual. However, as I already said, we expect these companies not to use direct links to the FIFA World Cup to promote or advertise their or any other third party’s business.

And what about informal traders who are used to selling their products around football stadiums on match days?
This is one area where we simply cannot be flexible. Within the Commercial Restriction Area there cannot be any unauthorized sales by informal traders. One key factor here is the safety of those attending matches. We need to ensure that the people flow around the stadia is not impeded by the presence of multiple trading areas.  

What exactly is the Commercial Restriction area?
The commercial restriction area does not have any physical boundaries and is simply an imaginary line on the city map surrounding each FIFA World Cup stadium. This area helps us to identify commercial entities who are trying to take advantage of the event by positioning themselves or their advertising close to a FIFA World Cup stadium.

And what about restrictions for fans within the stadium? Is it true that they are not allowed in the stadium with products from non-sponsor companies?
No this is not true. Provided that the clothing or items such as flags and banners are not part of an ambush marketing campaign organised for the purpose of benefiting from the exposure of the FIFA World Cup™.  If your clothing is a regular t-shirt or hat branded by a non-Sponsor company, and you and your friends are not all wearing the same item which, collectively, may identify you as a group seeking promotional exposure based on your clothing, then there should not be any issues accessing the Stadium areas.  However, if your clothing is the same as your friends and you are seeking to gain promotional exposure for a brand which is on your clothing, you may be asked to cover the branding or leave the clothing/items behind when accessing the stadium areas. 

What communication work have FIFA been engaged in to inform people of this topic?
Well, in addition to interviews such as this one we have been attending and speaking at seminars, have been cooperating with local authorities such as Host Cities, Sebrae, and have reached agreements with national anti-piracy committee. In addition to the tour which our Brand Protection team have just completed we have also held sessions with Brazilian advertising agencies so everyone is aware of the extent to which the FIFA World Cup can be used as a promotional tool. The key to our communication is the term Fair Play - all we ask for is Fair Play, not only on the pitch but also in the commercial environment. 

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