Put those vuvuzelas away, here comes FIFA

The IPKat has been reading with concern of the latest developments in South Africa, drawn to his attention by Dan Guildford. In "Scramble for sponsorship in 2010", popular football magazine When Saturday Comes (a.k.a. WSC) gives an account of the sad life and times of FIFA in its attempts to ensure that only official sponsors may advertise and promote their brands at the forthcoming soccer World Cup. Their treatment of non-sponsor Kulula Airlines seems particularly harsh. According to WSC:
"FIFA say that the company, known for their quirky adverts, had sought "to gain a promotional benefit by creating an unauthorised association with the 2010 FIFA World Cup". The Kulula advertisement used the national flag, footballs, and plastic vuvuzela trumpets, and according to FIFA it is the “combined use of these elements" which is banned.

Kulula's response to the ban has been dignified and hilarious. They initially withdrew the offensive adverts and said: "We're surprised at this FIFA complaint but have to be respectful because FIFA has very stringent rules." Then they hit back with a second, full-page advertisement in the Sunday Times on March 21, which mocks FIFA's approach to any marketing associating an unlicensed company with South Africa in 2010. The page reads: "Not next year, not last year, but somewhere in between."

The centre shows a bridge strongly resembling the Cape Town World Cup stadium. It is then illustrated with golf tees which look like vuvuzela, but are labelled: "Definitely, definitely a golf tee." Around the border hang pieces of cloth with the question: "Colourful beach towel? Flag?" And at the bottom a man stands in footballer-like pose wearing boot-like footwear, but without studs. The caption reads: "They're running shoes."".
Techdirt carries illustrations of Kulula's advertisement (above), to which FIFA took exception, as well as the now presumably acceptable form (below).

Asks Merpel, is this the same South Africa that passionately defended the right to free speech against trade mark enforcement in SABMiller v Laugh It Off Promotions (the BLACK LABOUR case)?

How to play the vuvuzela here and here
Vuvuzelas allowed at World Cup events here
Build a safe refuge from the vuvuzela here

Put those vuvuzelas away, here comes FIFA Put those vuvuzelas away, here comes FIFA Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, June 02, 2010 Rating: 5


  1. The major sports bodies, especially IOC and UEFA (the latter for its own interests and as a front for FIFA), have in recent years become extremely aggressive on the lobbying front. When their own IPRs are at stake, they try to maximize scope and enforceability and pursue infringers relentlessly. When the rights of the major soccer clubs or the players are at issue, or when competition interests in affected industries (such as pay TV) are concerned, the federations strive to be put above the law. The European Commission is preparing a sports-related IP initiative, and IP professionals should indeed take a look at what's in the making there because some of what the major sports federations ask for could set awful precedents for other industries. There was a time when those federations faced at least some lobbying resistance from the G14 group of clubs (dissolved in 2008). Now that isn't the case anymore and they and their political allies forge ahead. Principled politicians and public servants are the sole remaining obstacle for the federations. The Reform Treaty has given the EU direct competency for sports policy (previously sports was only affected by EU rules to the extent that it represents an economic activity), and the major federations believe that the sports article's reference to the specific characteristics of sport opens the floodgates for sports-specific rules in all areas. Like I said, IP is on the policy-making agenda in this context.

  2. Those aren't Vuvuzela's they are enlarged golf tees! You can hear Kulula's CEO on the topic here (http://afro-ip.blogspot.com/2010/03/cipro-and-kulula-interviews.html). Fifa have handed Kulula a marketing gift but as to your question on whether legislators have bent over backwards (or, depending on your viewpoint, forwards) for Fifa well, they have. We look forward to very creative marketing over the next two months in RSA - it's going to be as big a game off the field, as on it!

  3. Having attended the LESI2010 in Johannesburg I attended a presentation about licensing and rules relating to such activities. Sunset laws were mentioned. While not stated explicitly I get the impression you need a lot of influence to have these sunset laws written for your sports event. FIFA and also IOC appear skilled in this respect.

  4. The EM in Austria & Switzerland in 2008 has also lead to some quite funny commercials, e.g. one Austrian beer producers sold his beer as "unofficial fan-beer".




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