Floodgates will open if AOC doesn’t win Telstra ‘Go to Rio’ case, warns media lawyer

A senior media lawyer has warned the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) must win its case against Telstra over its ‘Go to Rio’ Olympic app ad or risk seeing the “floodgates” open to ambush marketers.


Speaking at the Mumbrella Sports Marketing Summit, Stephen von Muenster, principal of media law firm von Muenster solicitors, told the room that the case was a must win for the AOC and that the goal of the AOC was to have a “chilling effect” on those who might seek to use ambush marketing during the upcoming Rio 2016 Olympics.

“The AOC are putting a test case out there, with a big brand who used to be, but is not now a sponsor. If it goes against the AOC it may open the floodgates for ambushers to get out there and be more bold,” said von Muenster.

“However, tomorrow, if it goes the way I think it will go, then it will have a chilling effect.”

The AOC took Telstra to court last week over Telstra’s guerrilla campaign for its Channel Seven Rio Olympic Games app.

Telstra-seven-olympics poolThe ad used music from Peter Allen’s song ‘I Go to Rio’ and described the telco as the “official technology partner of Seven’s Olympic Games coverage” with the Federal Court due to deliver its verdict tomorrow.

“I would say that Telstra have good lawyers and wouldn’t have gone into this lightly,” said von Muenster. “I mean they did modify the image, so maybe they got a bit concerned and, of course, tomorrow the court will tell us who is right or wrong.”

The solicitor noted how marketers need to be aware of both the consumer law and also the Olympic Insignia Protection Act.

“There is the consumer law and and the Olympic Act and they both need to be taken into account together,” said von Muenster.

“If you would like to leverage the spirit of the Olympic Games and are not an Olympic sponsor then you need to be very careful,” he said noting, the consumer law takes a dim view of ambush marketing tactics, which are potentially misleading and deceptive conduct.

“It is the dominant impression that the consumer will take out from the communications that matters,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter what you think, doesn’t matter what the brand thinks, doesn’t matter what the agency thinks. If the reasonable impression is that (Telstra) is  associated somehow and that there is a connection then you are gone.”

Von Muenster also noted that there were still areas of unchartered waters, such as hashtags – which many brands could easily run afoul of.

“We are going to have hashtags that will use those protected Olympic expressions and Rio have protected other Olympic expressions around Rio 2016,” he said.

“Simply using that in any commercial way that is designed to enhance a commercial image in any way is going to be a breach of the law.

“Brands that use the official hashtags that include those protected words need to beware.”


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