The FIFA ambush marketing patrol was in impressive form at the Holland v Ivory Coast match in Stuttgart; more than 1000 patriotic Dutch fans were stripped of their orange lederhosen.
Topic: Ambush marketing
When: July 2006
It’s the kind of thing that gives Rights Protection Programmes a bad name. Over a thousand Dutch football supporters were forced to surrender their trousers at the door before being allowed to enter the Stuttgart football stadium to see Holland beat the Ivory Coast 2-1 this summer. Why? Because their orange lederhosen featured the branding of Bavaria beer – not an official FIFA sponsor.
The lederhosen were special promotional items offered by Bavaria, Holland’s second largest brewery. Dutch fans purchasing 12 tins of lager could buy a pair of the patriotic orange trousers for EURO €7,95. But many Holland fans ended up having their lederhosen confiscated, treating television viewers worldwide to the unusual spectacle of Dutch fans in their underpants around the stadium.
Why this matters
FIFA officials claimed that the Bavaria trousers were a form of ambush marketing and that FIFA was within its rights to prevent this kind of activity. But was their action legal?
The ticketing terms and conditions for the 2006 World Cup include a provision requiring ticket holders to consent to the confiscation of “prohibited items”. But it’s hard to see how a pair of orange lederhosen could fall within FIFA’s blacklist of “pyrotechnics, all types of weapons, glass containers, cans, intoxicant and alcoholic beverages, illegal drugs or any items that could impair the enjoyment, comfort and safety of other patrons, players or officials”…
The terms also state that “all promotional, commercial, political or religious items of whatever nature, including but not limited to, banners, signs, symbols and leaflets are prohibited and may not be brought into the Stadium if the [Organising Committee] reasonably believes that any such items may be used for display purposed [sic] within the Stadium”. However the Bavaria branding on the trousers appeared only in relatively small blue lettering on the side of the lederhosen.
To our knowledge, no-one has sought to challenge the legality of FIFA’s actions on this. However, with widespread media condemnation after the Stuttgart game, it was interesting to see FIFA officials taking a less aggressive stance at the next Holland game. Dutch fans turning up in Bavaria lederhosen to the match against Argentina in Frankfurt were apparently offered alternative brand-free orange shorts courtesy of FIFA.
For event organisers, policing sponsors’ rights is always going to be a tricky balancing act. Rights-holders have to show their sponsors they will take action against so-called ‘ambush marketers’. But there’s often a risk that taking action can appear heavy-handed and official sponsors can end up taking flak alongside the event organiser. At the 2003 Cricket World Cup, Pepsi ended up getting significant adverse press coverage as a result of a cricket fan allegedly being ejected from the ground for drinking Coca-Cola. Similarly, FIFA’s actions against fans in the wrong trousers at this year’s World Cup do not appear to have played out well for Budweiser, the official beer sponsor.