Apart from making trade mark and ambush marketing history, FIFA’s response to the Bavarian Babes incident has certainly sold a lot of beer for their sponsor’s competitor. Every blog post, tweet, article, newspaper story that comes about this is selling more Bavaria beer, not Budweiser beer.
A more considered and strategic move could have increased the sense of fun and down played the immediacy and media effect.
They’ve created what could turn out to be an international incident from something that could have been handled adroitly and strategically and turned around.
It gets worse, though, because it’s not even clear by any means that what was done is in fact Ambush Marketing. Let’s take the South African Merchandise Marks Act, which states in sections 15 and 15A that (in essence) the Minister may prohibit the use of any mark, word, letter or figure, or any arrangement or combination thereof in connection with any event (and the Minister can amend this by notice in the official gazette – see the 2003 amendment and the 2006 amendment).
Ok, so where on the outfits that were worn can anyone see any mark, word, letter or figure?
Note that the section 15A amendment talks about misuse of a trade mark, that’s not what’s happening here either.
But hold on, there’s also the Gauteng Provincial Gazette which defines Ambush Marketing to include:
…marketing, promotional advertising or public relations in words, sound or any other form, directly or indirectly relating to the Competition, and which claims or implies an association with the Competition and / or capitalises or is intended to capitalise on an association with or gains or is intended to gain a promotional benefit from it to the prejudice of any sponsor of, the Competition but which is undertaken by a person which has not been granted the right to promote an association with the Competition by FIFA and whose aforesaid activity has not been authorised by FIFA Competition.
Again, I can not see any association with the Competition that was claimed – can you?
While it looks like the incident was intended to gain some level of promotional benefit, the benefit was not by virtue of an association with the Competition. The women were clearly independent from the event. If any association was made, it would be with the Dutch team.
The provision also mentions the prejudice of the sponsor. Here, because of the mishandling by FIFA, Budweiser’s damage has been magnified many times over.
It gets worse when you consider how this legislation stacks up against the rest of the world. Not well at all, but that’s another, and even more lengthy post.
I know how I’d react if I was Budweiser. What would you do?