The FIFA World Cup™ tournaments are the most iconic football competitions in the world, reaching and inspiring fans all across the globe. Key brand assets such as the FIFA World Cup Trophy are universally known, and the great value they represent is a cornerstone of FIFA’s commercial programme. Therefore, investing time and resources to protect its brands is of paramount importance to FIFA in order to secure the revenue streams which enable us to support our various technical, medical, educational and other social development initiatives as well as the FIFA men’s, women’s and youth competitions.
Protecting the World Cup brand
Staging any World Cup tournament begins well in advance of the first match. The focus of the preparations is not only on developing the infrastructure of stadiums, transportation and other event logistics, but also on the creation of a unique tournament brand and experience. A tournament brand suite regularly includes an Official Emblem, Official Look and Official Mascot, and it may also feature an Official Slogan, Official Poster, Host City Posters and more. From the early days of the event preparations right through to the final dramatic moments when the tournament’s trophy is presented to the winning team, the whole event needs a strong brand that captures the essence of the tournament and the host country, whilst forging strong emotional links with fans all over the world. As the patron of the World Cup tournaments, it is essential that FIFA protects the integrity of the events’ and our own FIFA brand.
FIFA continuously develops and protects a large variety of brand assets, including logos, words, titles, symbols and other identifiers which it uses, or allows others to use under licence, in connection with its events such as the World Cup tournaments and other activities of the organisation. FIFA’s intellectual property (“IP”), some examples of which are featured below, is protected in territories around the world by copyright, trademark and/or other forms of intellectual property and laws such as unfair competition, passing off and any other relevant legislation.
|The FIFA World Cup™ Trophy|
|The Official Emblem of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™|
|The Official Emblem of the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™|
|The Official Mascot of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup India 2022™|
The IP represents the foundation of the FIFA commercial programme. Our Commercial Affiliates (sponsors) will only invest in our events and activities if they are provided with exclusive use of the IP and any other kind of association with the events. If anyone was free to use the IP, there would be no reason to a become sponsor. This could ultimately result in FIFA not being able to secure the necessary funding for its events and to develop the game globally. We therefore have to protect our rights by acting against unauthorised commercial use of our IP. We are committed to taking necessary and reasonable action against infringers to safeguard FIFA’s commercial programme and avoid the risk of losing the legal rights and title to FIFA’s IP.
Prohibited marketing activities
Ambush marketing can be defined as prohibited marketing activities which try to take advantage of the huge interest in and high profile of an event by creating a commercial association and/or seeking promotional exposure without the authorisation of the event organiser. Ambush marketing activities typically occur when a brand tries to link itself to a major event, be it through advertising or promotions using tournament designations or giving away/raffling off tickets, or by implementing a creative campaign that only indirectly associates with the tournament using imagery or textual references that aim to create a link to the event. Marketing activities by non-sponsor companies that seek to take advantage of the huge public interest in the event through physical on-site presence in or around event sites (e.g. stadiums) qualify as ambush marketing. The common denominator of such prohibited marketing activities is that they primarily seek free advertising. We consider ambush marketing to be a priority in our brand protection work, as this practice puts FIFA’s commercial programme directly at risk by effectively devaluing official sponsorship. The World Cup tournaments are the result of significant efforts to develop and promote the tournaments, something which would not be possible without the financial support of our Commercial Affiliates. Ambush marketers try to take advantage of the goodwill and positive image generated by the FIFA tournaments without contributing to their organisation.
Guarantee a positive fan experience
These companies try to target fans going to World Cup stadiums or FIFA Fan Festivals through on-site advertising and promotional teams, often distributing flyers or branded items with the goal of obtaining exposure at the site of the event and with the billions of fans watching worldwide. These actions knowingly play on and exploit the fans’ enthusiasm for the commercial advantage of the non-sponsor companies. As a result of FIFA’s brand protection work, the positive fan experience of attending a World Cup match is guaranteed without fans being targeted by prohibited marketing activities, ensuring a safe and enjoyable fan experience at the stadium. It is worth noting that the marketing activities of FIFA’s Commercial Affiliates are subject to prior approval from FIFA, with the emphasis on enhancing the fan experience rather than excessive branding exercises.
FIFA runs a global licensing programme, which gives fans the opportunity to engage with our tournaments and purchase official memorabilia. However, there are businesses that produce items bearing FIFA’s IP without obtaining the required licence. We treat all unauthorised products as counterfeits. Counterfeits are often identifiable by their inferior quality, and they may be sold under a different brand name and/or do not feature the correct authentication characteristics carried by official products (such as the FIFA Official Licensed Product logo on hang tags or sew-in labels, holograms, legal notice, etc.). Counterfeit products can range from clothing to toys, from footballs to stationery, and from footwear to memorabilia such as pins, keychains, World Cup Trophy replicas and other items that feature FIFA’s IP. We collaborate with customs and various law enforcement authorities across the world in the joint battle against counterfeits. When we are informed of the manufacture, distribution or sale of products that bear unauthorised reproductions of FIFA’s IP, we take the necessary action to bring the activity to a halt. It is worth pointing out that Official Licensed Products guarantee standards of product quality and ethical business dealings and working conditions, which ensure that practices such as child labour are prevented. These guarantees also apply with regard to the materials that are used to manufacture Official Licensed Products in comparison to counterfeits that may pose serious health risks in light of the absence of standards of product quality.
FIFA’s approach to brand protection
We are committed to protecting our brands and the exclusive rights of our sponsors in a measured way. Our efforts are based on three pillars that emphasise pre-emptive and educational measures to avoid any issues arising. Of course, we watch the marketplace for infringements and will take action as needed. If ultimately necessary, we will use all legal avenues at our disposal to defend our rights, however always guided by reason.
First and foremost, we strive to raise awareness of our IP and the restrictions that apply in relation to commercial association with the World Cup tournaments. To avoid “innocent” unauthorised use of FIFA’s IP or commercial associations with the World Cup, we engage in extensive awareness campaigns to ensure that the general public, the business community, ticket holders and any other potential stakeholders have access to information setting out the regulations that apply in this regard.
There are several elements of our brand protection work that are aimed at identifying infringements of FIFA’s rights. For example, we actively keep watch on intellectual property registers across the world to safeguard and preserve the exclusivity of our brands. We further monitor the digital space, including online marketplaces and social media, for infringements and actively engage with customs authorities on a global level to detect shipments of counterfeit products. Commercial Restriction Areas (CRAs) around World Cup stadiums and other event sites are a further element to protect the integrity of our commercial programme. CRAs are defined by an imaginary line on a map, not a physical barrier, and restrict the commercial activities of unauthorised businesses on matchdays and on the days leading up a match during tournament time. CRAs are prescribed by local laws or regulations to provide additional legal protection against prohibited marketing activities, such as the distribution of promotional items or flyers by non-sponsor businesses, unauthorised traders, the sale of counterfeit goods and unauthorised ticket sales. However, FIFA aims to limit the impact on local businesses located within a CRA by applying a “business as usual” principle. Permanent businesses and/or businesses regularly operating in a CRA may, in principle, continue their usual core operations during the tournament period as long as their activity is not specifically targeting the event to obtain an undue promotional benefit. In fact, many local businesses around the stadium and other event sites, such as bars, restaurants and convenience stores, benefit from the CRA as it effectively excludes non-local businesses, including opportunists from other regions or countries, seeking to cash in on the sudden increase of spectators at the expense of the local business community.
Our approach to brand protection focuses on education and guidance, rather than on enforcement by means of legal threats and sanctions. We prefer to engage in direct personal contact to bring infringing situations to an end by speaking to the business in question, explaining why the specific situation is problematic and seeking their cooperation to resolve the issue. In more serious cases, where there is a clear intention to take a free ride on the goodwill vested in the relevant event and the public excitement surrounding it, FIFA may need to engage in formal legal proceedings to halt an infringing situation and claim financial compensation for the damages suffered. However, we will generally not resort to such legal action without an in-depth analysis of the intention, scale and commercial impact of the matter at hand.
In addition to our general enforcement efforts, the FIFA Brand Protection team also manages the ticketing enforcement programme. FIFA strives to offer fair, equal and timely access to tickets to as many football fans as possible and to ensure affordable prices as well as a secure and hospitable environment at FIFA events. Against this background, FIFA’s ticketing enforcement programme is designed to protect and serve the interests of consumers and football fans worldwide. One of the main objectives of the programme is to protect consumers from the risks posed by unauthorised resellers, which include (i) paying higher than face value for tickets, (ii) purchasing counterfeit and/or invalid tickets from unauthorised sources, (iii) receiving tickets with seat allocations differing from those they intended to purchase, possibly leading to a security issue for fans and spectators, and (iv) falling victim to non-delivery or fraud. To this end, FIFA is committed to preventing any unauthorised use of tickets for FIFA tournaments, such as the resale of tickets and official hospitality packages, inclusion of tickets in unauthorised travel or hospitality packages, and the use of tickets for promotions and give-aways by non-sponsors.