Telstra victorious against AOC as Federal Court rules on guerrilla ‘I go to Rio’ campaign

The ongoing legal fight between the Australian Olympic Committee and Telstra over the telco’s promotion of the Seven Network’s Olympics app has come to an end with the Federal Court comprehensively rejecting the AOC’s appeal.

Launched during the lead up to the 2016 Olympics and featuring Peter Allen’s 1980s hit ‘I go to Rio’, the Telstra campaign promoted the Seven Network’s streaming app despite the telco not being a sponsor of the sporting event itself.

The final frame of Telstra’s ad promoting Seven’s Olympic streaming app

While the telco initially took the campaign down, it was reinstated some days later with modified wording. The AOC subsequently sued Telstra claiming the ads ‘deceived Australians’.

Despite the AOC losing the initial case and the Federal Court today rejecting all 10 of the AOC’s grounds of appeal while once again awarding costs to Telstra, the Olympic committee warned it will continue to aggressively protect its rights in the courts.

“The judgment does not mean that businesses generally can engage in Olympic-themed advertising,” stated Matt Carroll,  the AOC’s chief executive officer in a media statement. “It dealt with very specific facts.

“Telstra had entered into an agreement with Channel Seven, the exclusive Australian broadcaster of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and Telstra’s conduct was held to be permissible in that context. The Court viewed Telstra’s ads as suggesting sponsorship of Seven’s Olympic broadcast rather than of the Rio Games.”

“The AOC receives no government funding and relies entirely on sponsorship to send our Olympic teams to the Games. It will continue to prioritise protection of the investment our sponsors make and to take action against those seeking to capitalise on the Olympic movement without authority.”

In welcoming the judgement, Telstra spokesman Steve Carey said:  “We’re delighted the appeal court today confirmed the original decision that our advertising did no more than promote our relationship with Seven and did not suggest an affiliation with the Olympics.

“We have always maintained that our advertising complied with the law and today’s decision has again confirmed that.

“We were always confident we were doing the right thing by our customers and always abiding  by the law.

“We were disappointed that this dispute even made its way to court, especially after we proactively changed our advertising to make it even clearer that we were not an official sponsor of the Olympic Games.”

The AOC’s Carroll remained conciliatory towards Seven as a broadcast partner despite the loss.

“We value Seven as a long-term broadcaster of the Olympic Games and sponsor of the AOC and we look forward to continuing to work with them for the benefit of the Olympic movement as we approach the 2018 Olympic Winter Games and beyond,” he concluded in his statement.


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