AOC urges Australians to support ‘true, valued partners’ after court loss to Telstra

The Australian Olympic Committee has urged the public to support its sponsors if they want to see teams continue to be funded to participate in the games.

The plea came after Telstra won a court battle to promote its app delivering Seven’s Olympics content despite the telco not being a sponsor.

The AOC said that yesterday’s Federal Court ruling made a “very narrow application of the law” in rejecting its claims former official sponsor Telstra had ambushed the games and mislead the public with ads promoting the app.


In a statement, the AOC said:

“Since the first Olympic Games in 1896, Australia has valued participation in the Olympics and has participated in every Summer edition. To cover the high cost of participation, the Australian Olympic Team is reliant on its sponsors and other commercial partners.

“Preserving the ability to send a Team representing Australia to the Olympic Games is paramount and so the AOC will continue to protect its rights, as well as those of its sponsors and other commercial partners. We also encourage the public to support our sponsors’ products and services.

“The Australian Olympic Team is grateful to its true, valued Partners, including the Worldwide Olympic Partners, who provide on-going support and tireless efforts to support them.”

Reacting to the shock judgement overnight, the AOC said that it was “disappointed” at the decision.

The AOC took action against the telco – which ceased being a sponsor of the Australian Olympic Team a year ago, replaced by rival Optus – after Telstra launched a campaign promoting its sponsorship of the Seven Network’s Olympics app.

The AOC had highlighted Telstra’s use of the Peter Allen hit “I Go to Rio” as a key element in attempting to mislead consumers into thinking it was an official sponsor.

“Disappointingly, the Court’s decision in this particular case has, on what the AOC considers to be a very narrow application of the law, gone against the interests of Australia’s Olympic Teams,” the AOC said in the statement from Rio overnight.

The AOC cited Justice Michael Wigney’s own comments in highlighting its belief the former sponsor had overstepped the mark.

“Despite finding that ‘there could be no doubt that Telstra intended to, and may well have succeeded in capitalising or exploiting, in a marketing sense, the forthcoming Rio Olympic Games’, the Court did not consider that Telstra’s ‘extensive marketing and advertising campaign which… is focused or themed around the forthcoming Rio Olympic Games’ crossed the ‘fine line’ by contravening the law,” the AOC said.

Legal experts had warned that failure by the AOC to win its case would “open the floodgates” to other Olympic ambush campaigns.

Speaking at this week’s Mumbrella Sports Marketing Summit before the decision had been handed down, Stephen von Muenster, principal of media law firm von Muenster solicitors, said that the case was a “must-win” for the AOC if it did not want to see other brands test the boundaries of laws protecting the Olympics and the Australian Olympic Team from ambush marketers.

It is not yet clear if the AOC will appeal the decision.


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