Making my first coffee today in the office at 8AM I noticed a story on the front page of the NZ Herald. Funny I can’t seem to find it online, but there were loads of results on the web’s news pages.I’ll share the Huffington Post story here because I can’t find the NZ Herald story online for some strange reason.
Basically the story is that Dutch Brewery Bavaria has been selling orange mini skirts to soccer fans as an ambush marketing stunt. The clothes were available for sale in the Netherlands and as a very nationalistic country, it is normal behaviour for Dutch people to wear Orange on major occasions such as sporting events and also for children on Queen’s Birthday. So many Dutch people bought these skirts and wore them to the FIFA World Cup match against Denmark. The clothing had a tiny little label that would be very difficult to see with the Bavaria brand on it.
That wasn’t the problem though. The problem was that they allegedly paid a group of 36 blondes to wear them at the match, which is against the rules of sponsorship, where Budweiser are the only official beer sponsor of the map and have exclusive marketing rights. The story in the Herald said that 2 of the 36 women were arrested and charged and if convicted could face fines from 1,000 Rand to a term in prison. Subsequently they were released on Bail and FIFA has said they will not be charging the individuals, they will be bringing charges against the Bavaria Brewery itself.
As a marketer, I appreciate that brands pay outrageously high sponsorship fees to be able to advertise at major sporting events and expect protection, but how far should they be allowed to go? If I like a brand, why shouldn’t I be allowed to wear their clothing. I play poker and have played in tournaments sponsored by Jack Daniels and have won Jack Daniels clothing. If a group of my friends who also won their branded clothing to an event, could I be in trouble? If the organisers of the poker tournament encouraged me to wear their clothing at the event, would they be in trouble? Remember that the logo on the clothing, these 36 girls were wearing was only on a tiny tag that if you wanted to read it, you would have to get so close to the garment that you might get arrested on other charges.
Next year we have the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and the International Rugby Board is running by the same rules. According to the IRB even the letters RWC in succession have been trade marked. In effect I could be breaking the law just be blogging the letters RWC. When did it become possible for a sporting body to prosecute people or businesses for using 3 letters in succession. I mean, we only have 26 letters in our alphabet! So what if they were the initials for your company? Are you breaking the law? If I worked for or supported the Roger Wright Centre in Christchurch, and they had corporate clothing, I wouldn’t be allowed to wear it to any World Cup matches in New Zealand.
So what happens to other companies or organisations that use RWC in their name? Have they lost the rights to their business names? What happens if their staff want to be proud of the company and go to a match in company clothing? RWC stands for Redwood City in California. It stands for Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester New York which has a proud sporting history.
I think this is very scary and another example of large corporations wanting to own and control everything. Some of those corporations in the drug world may now own the patents to some of my DNA!
Anyway, before you go to any of the matches in South Africa this year or in New Zealand next year, make sure you don’t have any clothing showing off any brands that haven’t paid the IRB for the use of the letters RWC or any of the other trademarked groups of letters. They probably won’t have Sky in the holding cells.