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Australian Olympic Committee fails in appeal over Rio ambush marketing case

Australian Olympic Committee fails in appeal over Rio ambush marketing case
October 26, 2017

The Australian Olympic Committee has expressed its disappointment after the Full Court of the Federal Court yesterday (25th October) dismissed its appeal against a ruling concerning alleged ambush marketing by telecommunications company Telstra surrounding the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The case, which had been marked as having the potential to significantly change corporate sponsorship of major events, followed a Federal Court judge having, in July last year, dismissed the AOC’s claim that its former commercial partner Telstra launched a misleading advertising campaign ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games.

Telstra had served as a long-term partner of the AOC until 2015, when the two parties mutually ended their association. Earlier in 2016, Telstra launched an ‘I go to Rio’ campaign, which the AOC took issue with.

The AOC said the campaign implied that Telstra was still its partner and took legal action against Telstra after “repeated attempts for cooperation” with the company were rejected.

Telstra claimed the campaign was connected to its partnership with Australian commercial broadcaster Seven and insisted it was not trying to mislead anyone. A Federal Court judge, Justice Wigney, in July 2016 ruled in favour of Telstra and ordered the AOC to pay the company’s costs.

This ruling has now been upheld by the Full Court, leading AOC Chief Executive Matt Carroll to express his disappointment at the verdict.

In a statement, Carroll advised “action was taken in this case in order to support our Olympic sponsors and in particular the investment made by our exclusive telecommunications sponsor, Optus. The judgment does not mean that businesses generally can engage in Olympic themed advertising. 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.”

The AOC in December 2015 entered into a 10-year partnership with Telstra’s rival operator Optus.

At the time the deal, which named Optus as the official telecommunications partner of the AOC, was hailed as one of the body’s “biggest ever”.

The agreement became effective last year and runs until 2026.

Responding to yesterday’s ruling, a Telstra spokesman pointed to the fact the company had updated its television commercial with a disclaimer that it was not a partner of the International Olympic Committee or any national association or team.

The spokesman told Australian news agency AAP “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 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.” 

Images: Telstra's 'I go to Rio' campaign (top) and the Rio 2016 Olympic Village (below). 

24th August 2017 - AOC PROMISES TO OVERHAUL INTERNAL CULTURE AFTER DAMNING REVIEW

5th July 2017 - AOC’S MIKE TANCRED GIVEN $125,000 BONUS DESPITE BULLYING ALLEGATIONS

21st May 2017 - KIM BRENNAN APPOINTED AUSTRALIA’S CHEF DE MISSION FOR 2018 SUMMER YOUTH OLYMPICS

6th May 2017 - JOHN COATES WINS VOTE TO RETAIN AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE PRESIDENCY

27th April 2017 - AOC’S MIKE TANCRED STEPS DOWN FOLLOWING BULLYING ALLEGATIONS

13th April 2017 - AOC’S ANNUAL REPORT DETAILS $40,000 PAY RISE FOR JOHN COATES

28th March 2017 - FORMER CHIEF EXECUTIVE IN REPORTED DISPUTE WITH AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE 

16th March 2017 - MATT CARROLL NAMED NEW AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE CHIEF EXECUTIVE

1st August 2016 - AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE LOSES TELSTRA ‘AMBUSH MARKETING’ CASE IN FEDERAL COURT

16th July 2016 - AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE SLAMS TELSTRA OVER ‘MISLEADING ADVERTISEMENTS’

3rd July 2016 - KUWAIT SUES IOC FOR $1 BILLION OVER OLYMPIC BAN

5th February 2016 - OPTUS SIGNS USAIN BOLT AS OLYMPICS AMBASSADOR

27th April 2012 - TELSTRA, NRL AND AFL WIN MOBILE RIGHTS APPEAL


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