Companies invest millions of dollars to become “official sponsors” of major global sporting events. The tremendous publicity and consumer audiences generated by such events provide an attractive marketing opportunity for companies other than the event’s official sponsors who seek to associate themselves in the minds of the public with the goodwill and popularity of these events. This activity, known as ambush marketing, poses significant legal and business challenges for sport event organizers seeking to protect both the financial investment of official sponsors and the integrity of their sponsorship programs. With rising sponsorship stakes, event organizers have become increasingly proactive in their efforts to combat ambush marketing. This article examines the implementation and effectiveness of a variety of evolving sponsorship program protection strategies including: pre-event education and public relations initiatives; on-site policing tactics; contractual language in athlete participation and spectator ticket agreements; and the enactment and enforcement of special trademark protection legislation.
Steve McKelvey and Anita M. Moorman
Many 2004 presidential-election campaign advertisements were strategically targeted to appeal to viewers of sporting event telecasts. The Bush–Cheney campaign’s unauthorized use of the term Olympic in advertisements that aired throughout the 2004 Summer Olympic Games telecasts raised novel legal issues at the intersection of trademark law and constitutionally protected political speech. This article provides an analysis of the legal issues surrounding the Bush–Cheney campaign’s unauthorized use of the term Olympic. This article first examines the viability of trademark, unfair competition, and misappropriation-based claims potentially available to the United States Olympic Committee and other sport organizations. The article then examines some state-based regulations and case law regarding false and deceptive political campaign advertising that suggests a possible legal challenge to future political advertising campaigns that use sport organization trademarks without authorization. In addition to providing implications for sport managers, this article suggests that Congress may need to revisit latitudes afforded political speech to prevent a dangerous trend of political candidates’ misrepresenting their association with sport organizations.