Create a buzz without getting stung: 5 tips for marketing during the Rugby League World Cup 2021

6 minute read
26 October 2022

As the 2021 Rugby League World Cup (the "RLWC2021") belatedly begins (for those not aware, it was due to take place in the Autumn of 2021 but COVID-19 issues intervened), many household brands that are the official partners and sponsors of the famous tournament will be making the most of the many marketing opportunities that this sporting event creates. This however does not preclude other businesses from making use of the spectacle of the event to boost their own profile.

Below we set out five key issues to bear in mind when putting together promotional materials intended to piggy back on the RLWC2021.

1. Know your rights

The organisers of RLWC2021 have a variety of registered and unregistered rights, the most obvious example being the logo for the event.

This logo is a UK registered trademark, meaning any commercial use of it in advertising risks constituting an infringement of that mark. For example, an advert for your own products which then includes this logo and makes reference to the RLWC2021 has a high likelihood of being trademark infringement, because you will be seeking to financially gain from the use of the logo.

2. Know your official sponsors

As was seen in relation to the recent Commonwealth Games (for which Gowling WLG was the official legal advisor), organisers of large scale events with the sort of rights discussed above will proactively seek to ensure they are enforced. This is because they will have agreements with official sponsors that grant various types of advertising exclusivity. These rights will have been paid for by the sponsors, and so they will want to ensure they are getting value for money and are not being overshadowed by competitors that are not official sponsors.

Therefore, if you are a competitor of an official sponsor, the risk to any advertising referencing RLWC2021 is considerably higher because of the interests involved. However, if there is no official sponsor in the sector you operate, the risk may be lower (and indeed there may be an opportunity to secure some last minute official advertising at the event).

3. Consider whether it is necessary to refer to the RLWC2021

Where it is not integral to the marketing campaign for reference to the RLWC2021 to be made, you may consider creating content in a way which means the RLWC2021 branding does not appear in the first place. For example, you may choose to refer to "a rugby league tournament" or similar, rather than use the RLWC2021 rights. Alternatively, if your advertising is in proximity to a venue being used for the event it may not be necessary to allude to RLWC2021 at all because you will already be benefiting from the footfall of fans and spectators attending the venue for the event.

If you do need to refer to the tournament, you may wish to limit the use of the mark to what is absolutely necessary. If you reference the tournament purely for descriptive purposes, the risk of infringing rights is considerably lower than if you are seeking to promote yourself using RLWC2021 intellectual property rights.

4. Do not ambush

Ambush marketing is an attempt by an unauthorised party to take advantage of the high media profile of an event, team or individual, through deliberate marketing activity and without paying any licence or sponsorship fee, at the expense of another company's official association with the event, team or individual.

Attempts at ambush marketing are prominent at major sporting events and notable examples include:

  • The 2010 Ryder Cup: The well-known betting chain, Paddy Power, had to remove a 270ft unofficial promotional sign placed outside the boundary of Celtic Manor Golf Course in Wales.
  • The 2005 Wimbledon Championships: Event organisers prevented spectators from bringing into the Wimbledon grounds Palmolive branded bottles of water, given to them free at the entrance to the grounds, as one of the official sponsors of the Wimbledon Championships was Buxton water.
  • The 2006 World Cup: FIFA officials made Dutch spectators remove their orange lederhosen which advertised Bavaria beer, leaving them having to watch the rest of the match in their underwear.

5. Seek legal advice before publishing marketing and/or promotional materials

Before running a marketing campaign which seeks to gain from an association with the RLWC2021, it is important to seek legal advice.

If you are uncertain about what terms can be used in relation to your business during the RLWC2021 and require further information, we are happy to help so please get in touch.

If you would like more content discussing advertising and corporate sponsorship in relation to major sporting events, please watch our on-demand webinar.

NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. Gowling WLG professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.