NZ in advertising lockdown for Rugby World Cup

By Hayley Hannan

Children play outside Eden Park Rugby Stadium as it has last minute work done in the build up to the Rugby World Cup 2011. Photo / Janna Dixon
Children play outside Eden Park Rugby Stadium as it has last minute work done in the build up to the Rugby World Cup 2011. Photo / Janna Dixon

New Zealand is in an advertising lockdown during the Rugby World Cup as organisers keep a vigilant eye out for marketers and advertisers hijacking the tournament's brand.

The International Rugby Board, Rugby New Zealand, the Ministry of Economic Development and local councils across the country are working together to stop unofficial cup brands mooching free publicity off the event.

Companies wanting to be associated with the Rugby World Cup 2011 event have to pay for the use of the name and the logos.

Around many international sporting events, corporates look to capitalise on the games and hype by associating themselves with the event without paying the sponsorship fee, a practice known as ambush marketing.

It's common practice for many brands; at the 1996 Olympics Nike built its own branded village instead of paying the $50 million sponsorship fee.

Anyone found trying to use the tournament's name or brand can be fined up to $150,000 under the Major Events Management Act 2007, and could face legal action if they try to rip off the trademark said IRB general manager Ross Young.

"It's the malicious corporate ambush where people invest tens of thousands of dollars in intricate campaigns, those are the ones we're after."

He said hundreds of educational letters with cartoons and pictures had been sent out explaining what companies can and can't do.

Each of the 12 stadia across the country will be protected by a 'clean zone' for a period before and after the match.

The Ministry of Economic Development was monitoring each zone, and up to 12 team members would patrol Eden Park around the temporary period said ministry spokesman James Funnell.

"The reality is it's become pretty much standard over the last handful of years that major sporting events attract ambush marketing."

Within each clean zone, any existing advertising was exempt from the law - even if it was for rival brands he said.

However, many of the key billboard spaces around Auckland had been pre-booked a few years ago by sponsors and the organisers said Auckland Council licensing manager Carole Todd.

The council is monitoring the wider Auckland area and up to 35 council officers will patrol Auckland every match night, looking for any leaflets, freebies, posters, billboards or products that don't have a permit said Ms Carole Todd.

The officers will also be monitoring noise and liquor licensing mainly around areas close to the stadium, the viaduct and any special celebration zone.

Council has given out permits for any kind of sale or giveaway on the streets which protect the sponsor's rights, she said.

She said council was looking out for "clever" marketers offering something as simple as a beanie emblazoned with a non-official logo being given out on the way to the stadium, that don't have permits.

Advertising agency TBWA chief executive David Walden said sponsors such as Heineken would have paid "millions and millions" to be associated with the tournament.

"The biggest ambush marketing used to be a streaker with Vodafone across their bottom running across the field when the All Blacks was sponsored by Telecom."

He said advertisers were now more interested in using publicity to create sales, rather than just pulling a stunt - but he still expected to see a few attempts at publicity stunts.

Darien Rush security guards is on the lookout for any companies that are daring enough to try and unleash a streaker across the Eden Park pitch.

The security company had a special team that had been trained to restrain and deal with pitch invaders, said human resources manager Colin Brown.


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