FIFA World Cup 2014: Ambush Marketing, avoiding a red card

FIFA World Cup 2014: Ambush Marketing, avoiding a red card


Author: George Roberts

In June 2014 the FIFA World Cup kicks off in Brazil as 32 countries compete to be crowned the footballing champions of the world.

The World Cup attracts enormous levels of media attention and public engagement which makes it a fantastic opportunity for businesses to cash in on the hype. In 2010, the in-home television coverage of the competition reached over 3.2 billion people worldwide, or 46.4% of the global population.

The World Cup provides an extraordinary platform for brand exposure. Whether or not a formal sponsor, many businesses have already started marketing campaigns that seek to piggy back off the buzz and excitement of the World Cup. However, such campaigns should proceed with caution, if a company is not an official sponsor, there's only so far you can push it to remain "on-side". Push too far and you may be seeing red.

"Strike" the balance

At the last World Cup, drinks manufacturer Bavaria pushed that little bit too far. Bavaria sent a group of 36 women to attend the game between Holland and Denmark wearing "Bavaria" orange dresses and whilst they didn't bear any logo its marketing stunt was perceived as an "ambush" on the FIFA brand. Expensive and lengthy legal action ensued, including some criminal prosecutions (albeit these were later dropped).

Marketers must strike the right balance, whilst opportunistic marketing is largely acceptable; ambushing the FIFA brand is certainly not. In some ways, FIFA have a point. The "World Cup" brand is vital to the financial success of FIFA's competition. By protecting the brand and ensuring only official paid up sponsors can receive the full benefit gives them a great product to market.

In contrast, just because FIFA own the "World Cup" brand does not mean that FIFA (and its paid up sponsors) have a monopoly over the entirety of football in summer 2014. There are obvious parallels between the legal issues around marketing during the "World Cup" and those relating to the Olympic brand.

UK Companies have more leeway in terms of the references they can make this summer than they did, for example, for the London Olympics for which special legislation was passed giving the London Organising Committee enhanced legal rights. However, FIFA still enjoys extensive trade mark rights and should be expected to assert them with vigor as it has during previous contests. Clearly, companies who are not official sponsors should be able to promote products insofar as they do not overstep FIFA's brand. The key is hitting it on the sweet spot.

Some examples of striking that balance are:

  • Peugeot's new #KickItToBrazil campaign where a football will be transported from Paris to Brazil over 30 countries, presumably in Peugoet's vehicles.
  • The Real McCoys #RioMcCoy'sLocal promotion where you have a chance to win tickets to your local pub which could be "re-created" in Rio, Brazil.
  • Pepsi signing up Leonardo Messi, Robin Van Persie, Sergio Aguero and Jack Wilshere (all players expecting to play in this year's World Cup) for it's 2014 advertising campaign. Notably, Coca Cola have been official sponsors of the FIFA World Cup since 1950.


Despite the above, there are some things that should be avoided:

1. Protected Marks

In addition, FIFA owns a wide range of official trade marks, including the below. Any unauthorised use of these marks, or any other marks, symbols or images, relating to FIFA or the Tournaments, whether on-site or off-site, may constitute actionable trade mark infringement and, depending upon the country in which they are used, passing off, unfair competition or even a breach of national laws protecting the Tournament. Consequently, the marks listed below should not be used in any marketing, without the consent of FIFA.


  • 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil 
  • Mundial de Futebol Brasil 2014
  • Brazil 2014
  • 2014 FIFA World Cup
  • Copa do Mundo 2014
  • 2014 Brazil
  • FIFA World Cup
  • HOST CITY names + 2014 for each of the host cities (e.g. Rio 2014, etc.)
  • Football World Cup
  • FIFA
  • World Cup
  • Soccer World Cup
  • 2014 World Cup
  • Mundial 2014
  • Copa 2014
  • World Cup 2014
  • Copa do Mundo

2. Premises decorations

Retail stores, restaurants and drinking establishments are all prohibited from using official FIFA trade marks to give the impression of an association with the event. Although the use of national flags and imagery is permitted, logos such as the three lions for England are themselves protected images owned by the relevant national team.

3. Public screenings

Those organising public screening are prohibited from using the official marks. FIFA also prohibits any events that seek to present an association with FIFA. It is unlikely that FIFA would object to companies arranging World Cup parties for their clients and staff although it is important to remember that if the football is being broadcast live, either by television, laptops, tablets or PCs in your premises you must have a television licence.

4. Prize draws

If you are not a FIFA partner you are forbidden from the auctioning or promotional use of tickets. This is perceived to be a form of ambush marketing. This means that businesses are forbidden from offering tickets as prizes or from auctioning them. Any type of contest, game or lottery using an Official Mark creates an
unauthorised association.

Contact details

For further advice and guidance on ensuring that your advertising and marketing is effective, clear and compliant please contact us.