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Sports and Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual property (IP) rights (patents, industrial designs, trademarks, copyrights, etc.) are often associated with industry, especially the manufacturing industry. IP rights give exclusivity to the IP owner for a limited period of time. But organizers of sporting events are using IP laws to capitalize on interest in particular sports.
Sports activities began as a hobby or recreational event for participants to enjoy sports or as a form of physical exercise. Some sports have now grown into giant international events, or more properly international businesses with their own “tailor-made” laws. Such international events also challenge the sovereign laws of countries.
Popular sports such as football, golf, tennis, basketball, cricket, yachting, car-racing and the like have evolved into a large number of international tournaments, creating huge marketing potential for organizers. Organizers of popular sports such as FIFA (soccer), PGA (golf), NBA (basketball) and the like organize and manage events in such a way as to get the most value from others who want to take advantage of marketing, especially international tournaments. Probable event offers.
Organizers initially create a distinctive logo, symbol or phrase(s) to identify the event. If the logo or emblem is original, it will also be protected as a copyrighted work.
For example, the 2010 FIFA World Cup logo is protected as a trademark and as an artistic work under copyright law. Terms such as “2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa”, “2010 FIFA World Cup”, “2010 World Cup”, “Football World Cup” and similar derivatives thereof are also protected from unauthorized use and subject to applicable laws in various jurisdictions.
As the logo/symbol/phrase (“event identifier”) is heavily promoted in the mainstream media, it is easily and very quickly associated with the event by the public and thereby acquires a strong trademark value. Event organizers then move on to exploit the trademark value for other businesses.
Let’s look at the various revenue streams that organizers get. The first line of revenue is sponsorship fees. This includes the right to display the Sponsor’s trademark at the venue/stadium, the right to use the Event Identifier on articles produced by the Sponsor, 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 adjacent to the tee boxes at a golf course).
Another line of revenue is gate collection. Here too printing of tickets can be sponsored – a ticket bearing the trademark of the sponsoring party.
A third source of revenue is the specialized supply of sports products such as footballs, tennis balls, shuttlecocks (badminton), fuel and lubricants (car racing). A Supplier of Articles has its own “Authorized Supplier” to advertise its Articles and to promote itself as the exclusive provider of such Articles. Ironically, although Adidas was a high-level sponsor/partner in the FIFA World Cup 2010, through the players’ football boots or through clever advertising spots, Nike attracted more audience attention. Is this a case of bad sponsorship strategy by Adidas?
A fourth source of revenue, and increasingly the most lucrative source of revenue, is the exclusive right to record and broadcast the program on television and radio, and possibly on the Internet in the near future. Broadcasting rights are given to regional and national broadcasting networks. All copyrights in respect of recording and broadcasting of the Games are retained by the Organizers or licensed to specific entities.
Finally, organizers grant manufacturers exclusive rights to produce and sell products bearing mascots or event identifiers in exchange for payment of royalty fees.
Organizers have a wide range of revenue streams, namely:
1. Sponsorship Fees
2. Gate collection
3. EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS TO USE PRODUCT AT EVENT
4. Broadcasting Rights
5. Merchandising Rights
Apart from event organizers, other manufacturers and service providers benefit by sponsoring sports apparel and sports equipment of specific teams or athletes. Just consider the brand of player’s t-shirt, shorts, cap, gloves, shoes, socks etc. In South Africa, the non-sponsor brand shoes worn by the players stood out just as prominently (if not more so). One of the official sponsors. When it comes to race car drivers, have you ever seen the overalls of plain drivers? Conversely, a driver’s overall with a crash helmet is often plastered with an assortment of trademarks.
The refreshments/beverages consumed by the player during the game are also sponsored, with full advertising value being leveraged. Here the trademark advertisement is not a product advertisement, as seen in a TV commercial, but a trademark or product originally associated with a successful athlete. What more persuasive message can be created than for a world-class player using an advertiser’s product?
In addition to the organizers making money as mentioned above, athletes, especially top athletes in sports, often endorse sports-related and even non-sports products or services or businesses. 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 latter two after his transgression); Maria Sharapova, one of the top female tennis players, footwear and apparel, camera and watches, among others; And footballer Ronaldinho has endorsement deals with Pepsi, Nike and Sony.
To maximize profit from revenue streams, organizers of major game events like FIFA have to strictly enforce their trademark rights and take action against those who associate themselves with their trademarks without the organizers’ consent. Unless the organizers take strict action against violators, it is unlikely that they will command higher sponsorship rates for future events, not to mention the potential violation of the sponsorship agreement.
Unfortunately, IP laws are not designed for such periodic international events. Many producers or service providers would like to be associated with major international programs that attract TV audiences in the billions, but either do not have the opportunity or cannot afford the fees and expenses. So they try to associate their product/service with the event without the consent of the event organizer. This is where “ambush marketing” comes into play. Event organizers have a field day cracking down on such vendors. But whether a particular event or advertisement amounts to ambush marketing is unclear under traditional IP law. To prevent this, countries, especially host countries, need to enact specific laws to deal with ambush marketing before they are given the opportunity to host the event. Britain had to implement the London Olympic and Paralympic Games Act 2006 before the 2012 London Olympics. The trademark “London 2012” is protected.
The next question is how and in what manner the revenue from the event, say the 2010 FIFA World Cup, is spent. Who benefits from the revenue? That will be the subject of another article on another day.
Note: Trademarks and designs identified in the article belong to their respective owners. The author claims no ownership rights; They are used for educational purposes only.
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