No free kicks for your brand – a guide for brand owners during the FIFA Women’s World Cup


The FIFA Women’s World Cup® is officially underway in host countries Australia and New Zealand, with viewership numbers expected to reach 2 billion people globally.

With so many eyes pointed in the same direction, there is of course, an enticing opportunity for brand owners to try to capture their own piece of the spotlight. But before anyone sets off to paint their logo on the stadium doors, it’s worth taking the time to consider which marketing strategies are in the clear and which are hurtling, studs-up, into trouble.

What follows here is a brief guide (lightly spattered with groan-inducing puns) to help brand owners score their marketing goals during this FIFA Women’s World Cup®, without committing any fouls.

The first thing to consider is that the FIFA Women’s World Cup® has a line-up of official affiliates in the form of partners, supporters, and sponsors. These affiliates typically have agreements in place which give them special rights in terms of how they can use their branding in partnership with the World Cup. The affiliates naturally have an interest to set up a strong back line to keep their investment safe from any undue influence and secure their exclusive rights.

For brand owners who are not in position (by way of agreement) to associate their brand with the FIFA Women’s World Cup®, caution must be taken to not intentionally or inadvertently use the intellectual property of FIFA® or portray themselves as an affiliate of FIFA® or the World Cup. Parties doing so may be found guilty of committing the foul often described as ‘ambush marketing’.  

Ambush marketing involves capitalising on the publicity and attention generated by a popular event without entering into any official sponsorship agreements. This can be achieved through various means, such clever advertising campaigns or brand endorsements by individuals associated with the event without bearing the financial burden of official sponsorship.

Acts of ambush marketing can be subtle or overt. A famous example comes from the 2010 FIFA Men’s World Cup® in South Africa, when a group of Dutch fans were ejected from the Netherlands v Denmark game, after FIFA® officials accused them of wearing orange attire to promote an unlicensed beer brand. If nothing else, this case emphasises that there is an element of subjectivity when it comes to spotting instances of ambush marketing, which is even more reason to tread carefully and play within the lines.

Some examples of less extravagant stunts that might result in a penalty include unauthorised street trading in and around the stadiums during matches, or simply posting images of your brand near the FIFA® or Women’s World Cup logos and insignia online to attract attention for commercial purposes.

Unauthorised use of another entity’s branding for commercial purposes often constitutes a clear-cut case of trade mark infringement. However, during the FIFA Women’s World Cup®, there is an extra layer of protection for the event organisers. The Major Events Management (FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023) Order 2022 has declared that the FIFA Women’s World Cup® is a ‘major event’. The laws around ‘major events’ are governed by the states and territories in Australia and major events in New Zealand are governed by the Major Events Management Act 2007. These Acts generally contain provisions that expressly prohibit use of any official title or official insignia, of a major event for a commercial purpose, without the consent of the relevant authority.

But just because the pitch is a little bumpy doesn’t mean brand owners should forfeit the match. There are plenty of ways to celebrate the FIFA Women’s World Cup® without setting off the referee’s whistle. FIFA® recommends using generic football or country-related images and/or terminology that do not incorporate any FIFA® Intellectual Property. Brand owners can see this as an opportunity to think outside the 6-yard box and invent clever ways to show support to the game or a particular country. Treat your brand as a fan of the game sharing in the excitement, rather than as a partner of the event.

If there are any doubts as to whether your marketing strategy will run you into trouble, reach out to our team of intellectual property specialists who will be delighted to assist.

And on that note…Go Matildas!

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