Monday, May 03, 2004

Ambush marketing of "Friends" finale

When the Super Bowl comes around there are plenty of companies that run ads that aren't quite tradmark infringement, but only because they use coded speech similar to the trademark to let you know they are associating themselves with it - such as the "Bud Bowl" ads. There can be great benefit to associating one's brand with a big event, which is why companies sponsor sports events for millions of dollars. It gets the product eyeballs and also associates the product with the culture of the event and it's viewers. This article states:

It's why you're seeing so-called ambush marketing. Miller Lite Beer uses "Super Parties" on its billboards to get around the rules.

And here is a discussion of Super Bowl parties:

There is a significant distinction to the various special events and parties. There are the NFL-sanctioned events, which have the blessing of the football league. And there are the so-called ambush parties, which trade on Super Bowl excitement but are not part of the "official" landscape.

Of course anyone who wishes to use the actual logo needs to get permission from the NFL and pay a fee. Hence the emergence of advertising which refers to "the game on Sunday" without using the term Super Bowl. Likewise, we are seeing the same sort of ambush marketing with the upcoming Friends finale. The New York Times discusses it here:

[C]ompanies not officially part of the "Friends" send-off are trying to be associated with it, not unlike advertisers that do not pay to be Super Bowl sponsors ambushing those that do by running football-centric ads referring to "the big game." For example, the pasta maker Barilla has put up a Web site ( offering recipe ideas for viewing parties "to say goodbye to a few old 'friends.' "

It's an interesting article that mentions various tactics advertisers use to leach attention off of televised events and create an association with them. Marketers have found ways to avoid liability for infringement, but infringers and fakers beware these guys don't mess around. See here:

During Super Bowl week, a contingent of NFL-hired security will prowl Houston streets, trying to curb the sale of knockoff NFL clothing by peddlers and stores. But that still won't stop all the "ambush marketing," promotions that link companies to the league or the game but avoid trademark infringement by not including the NFL logo or even the term "Super Bowl." "Ambush marketing is a transparent attempt to cash in on the passion of our fans," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

They go after big fish and small; see here:

[T]he NFL is suing Yardy and Provider Technologies Inc., a Tampa Internet company, over the Web site operated by the pair to rent homes to those visiting the Tampa Bay area for the Jan. 28 game. The lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in New York seeks unspecified financial damages and a court order immediately forcing them to stop using NFL trademarks. "We're not saying nobody can ever use "Super Bowl' in any form or context," said NFL attorney David Proper. "But there's no doubt in our mind that these guys are using it inappropriately to try to create the appearance of an affiliation to our event that they clearly don't have."

Via The New York Times (and hat tip to The Trademark Blog).


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