World Cup Fans Lose Their Trousers Over Sports Promotion

Discussion
Jun 22, 2006
Bernice Hurst

By Bernice Hurst, Managing Director, Fine Food Network


John McEnroe asked the question decades ago when he exclaimed at a referee’s
call, “You CANNOT be serious???!!!”


Unfortunately, sponsors of major sporting events take themselves very seriously
indeed. The Dutch fans attending their football team’s World Cup match against
the Ivory Coast were penalized for wearing garish, bright orange trousers known
as lederhosen by making them strip before entering the stadium. FIFA officials
were not amused that they carried the name of a favorite Dutch beer, Bavaria.
Advertising for a product that conflicted with that of a sponsor (Budweiser
in this case) is absolutely not acceptable.


This is not the first sporting event where fans’ behavior has been dictated
by big companies with bigger advertising budgets:


At the cricket world cup in South Africa in 2003, stewards searched fans’ coolboxes
for fizzy drinks made by the sponsor’s rivals and one man was evicted for actually
drinking a can of someone else’s product.


At the 2004 Champions Trophy cricket tournament, fans were given a list of
drinks and snacks they could take onto the grounds.


A school event in Evans, Georgia, climaxed with a group photograph for which
all students wore branded Coca-Cola T-shirts. The single student who unveiled
a Pepsi shirt underneath, just as the camera clicked, was suspended.


An entire football team was fined in 2002 for wearing corporate logos on their
shirts from a major rival of a major sponsor.


This time, though, it was the big crowd that apparently caused the problem
by conducting what was deemed “ambush marketing.” FIFA says it has done nothing
wrong in making 1000 fans remove their trousers before supporting their team.
A spokesman said that visitors could wear their normal clothing or replica shirts
with or without advertising, irrespective of the manufacturer’s or sponsor’s
logo, a policy that apparently applied to “individuals,” not groups.


Moderator’s comment: Are these prohibitions self-defeating?
Or are advertisers entitled to ban rivals from events which would not take place
without their financial contribution?


The comedy American pundits on the Budweiser commercials
shown on British television have been accused this week of being the most annoying
people on our screens. One Guardian columnist vowed never to drink Budweiser
ever again, exhorting readers to follow suit. But they will probably be remembered
for years to come along with all the other high and low points that will be
repeated ad nauseam. Which might mean that the advertising budget was money
well spent after all.

Bernice Hurst – Moderator


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10 Comments on "World Cup Fans Lose Their Trousers Over Sports Promotion"


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Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
14 years 8 months ago

You can argue the sponsoring company has the right to dictate, however if the enforcement results in so much media attention then what’s the benefit? In fact you could argue the sponsor could get hurt even more by making a scene about what is and what is not allowed due to the news media coverage of the “enforcement process.” In the end marketers have to keep in mind that what might be viewed as a good plan in the conference room can end up being a PR fiasco based on factors they do not have any control over. (Now…how about people playing sports for the love of the game and not for the love of money….)

Jack Borland
Guest
Jack Borland
14 years 8 months ago
The poll response and our comments seem to generally be in agreement. If you’re not providing the event free to the public, sponsorship should only mean prominent name placement, not a ban on competing messages. The repercussions of being perceived to be “brand fascists” must far outweigh any restriction of brand dilution by restricting competitors. The thing to remember is that brand expressions by the attendees wearing/carrying/consuming competing products are usually an indication of personal preference, and not a systematic attack by another brand. Even if they were systematic, it’d be far better to ignore it, than trumpet your “right” to stamp out the offending brand. When you start tangling with restricting attendee preference expressions, you’re diving deep into a customer perception issue that wasn’t the core reason you sponsored the event in the first place. Customer perception is, in essence, how an individual customer feels about associating with your organization. The reality of your customer experience is the customer’s perception – not your perception, your intention or your assumptions. So, be a “brand fascist”… Read more »
Eva A. May
Guest
Eva A. May
14 years 8 months ago

I think it’s fine that event organizers ban competitive non-sponsoring advertisers from on-site advertising. But to forbid a paying ticket-holder that they cannot wear or consume a product with even a prominent logo is going too far. Consumers receive no money from the sponsors and pay money for their tickets. Why should they be restricted in their clothing or consumption? I would think that rules restricting consumers in their personal clothing/consumption would only result in generating bad will towards the sponsor and the organizer – which is that last thing that either should want.

And kudos to the guerrilla marketer team that came up with a creative way to be a part of the World Cup game. I’m sure the publicity generated behind the removal of the “offending” trousers has more than paid off for them!

James Tenser
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

Some great observations here. There’s a long tradition of guerrilla marketing among the very companies who sponsor world-class events. Coke and Pepsi have been dogging each other for years around the world. (The image of a Pepsi blimp hovering over a Coca Cola sponsored sporting event in Brazil comes to mind…)

So yes, when a brewer organizes hundreds of people to collaborate in the hijacking of fan awareness at an event sponsored by a competitor, the official sponsor has some grounds to gripe. Banning an advertiser-planned group demonstration of this kind is not the same as controlling the dress code of individuals. So from a legalistic perspective, Bud had right on its side, I think.

Now, the PR perspective may be another matter. Bud’s ban of orange pants may have turned out to be the very best thing that could have happened to the Bavaria marketers in the World Cup arena.

Brian McGregor
Guest
Brian McGregor
14 years 8 months ago

While it is understandable that advertisers want to retain their exclusivity, there is a modicum of reasonability that needs to be considered. If the event is free of charge to the attendees, the advertiser would be well within their rights to protect their investment, assuming the requirements are well published. If, however, the attendees pay for their tickets, I have less sympathy for the advertiser. The advertiser runs a certain risk in sponsoring the event, and likely generates more ill will than good will by their actions.

This is an interesting dilemma–what’s next? No Tony Stewart merchandise can be worn to a race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway? No one with AT&T service can go to PacBell Park?

Daryle Hier
Guest
Daryle Hier
14 years 8 months ago

Yes, the thought of Dutch soccer fans taking off their pants to get inside a stadium – funny. Usually security is trying to keep everyone’s pants on, especially at soccer events where almost anything can happen.

As far as rights given to the sponsor; they’ve been doing this in motorsports for years – the legal paperwork that race teams have to abide by, alone, is like a phone book. It’s a game in of itself and, yes, the likes of Coke and Pepsi or Bud and Miller trying to one up the other is common. I agree wholeheartedly, the PR in all this is what’s at risk.

So what the heck did these people wear; just their shorts? That would have been a sight. The moral of the story is: if you don’t drink the right beer, you lose your shorts. I thought it was the other way around?

John Lofstock
Guest
John Lofstock
14 years 8 months ago

The bottom line is that this sporting event, like every other major sporting event, is enormously profitable, so fair or not, these organizations are going to do whatever they can to protect their investors. However, I think it cheapens the very essence of sports, which is all about head-to-head competition. If you can wear a Yankees jersey to Fenway Park, you should be able to wear a Budweiser shirt without fear of being told to remove it because Miller is the official beer of Fenway. If this trend continues at FIFA soccer matches and NASCAR racing events, it’s certain to slowly creep into other sporting events, though I hope the four major sports are smart enough to preserve freedom of expression over their proclivity for greed.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

I can’t get over the picture of hundreds of pantless Dutch football enthusiasts! Obviously, some fans don’t understand…these aren’t sports anymore …they’re just really, really long commercials in which the fans pay for the right to be cast as extras.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

As long as the sponsors publicize the rules in advance, they should be entitled to regulate the audience. Whether it’s a good idea to do this is another story. Most brands’ positioning doesn’t include agression against potential customers. Most brands want to have positive images. By announcing a ban against competitor brands, they’re daring certain people to challenge them. If the possibility of competitors’ images bothers the sponsor so much, then the sponsor can select a different ad medium offering more control, without exhibiting conflict.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

(Yet) another reason to dislike the World Cup.

Though the article made no distinction, I think there is a (major) difference between what should, or even can, be asked of participants (no pun intended) versus fans: restrictions on the former – though they may cheapen the sport – are defensible; resrictions on the latter, are not.

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