The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has trademarked specific terms associated with brands’ sponsorship activity around this summer’s Investec-sponsored test series against Australia.
It means non-sponsors found marketing cricket-related products with terms such as “Ashes Cricket 2013” or “Old Trafford Ashes” could face legal action. Sponsors and promoters have a variety of legal resources available to protect their interests, but until now have never worked with the governing body to safeguard a range of phrases.
The initiative reflects growing concerns from sponsors over the protection they receive against ambush marketing. The issue was brought into sharp focus around last year’s London 2012 Games when organisers rolled out “branding police” to crackdown on the use of terms including ‘the Games’ by non-sponsors.
John Perera, the ECB’s commercial director told Marketing Week sponsors have previously “taken it on themselves” to protect their rights because there was no legislative support for using Ashes-related words, unlike the restrictions around the Olympic Games.
He adds: “During the last Ashes test series we saw a number of examples of unauthorised merchandise. Protecting your IP has become much more topical over the last decade and I think that really came through during last year’s Olympics.
“Brands have been trademarking certain terms themselves in the past, but we’re putting in place a process for them to work with us ahead of the Ashes.”
The ECB is working with the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) to monitor unauthorised use of trademarked phrases with plans to do the same with other backers and cricket events.
It comes ahead of next year’s overhaul of how ECB will sell commercial title sponsorship rights to brands. Instead of allowing brands to sponsor either international or domestic competitions and series. sponsors will be offered all competitions within that format.
The organisation cites deals with Sky, the BBC and Asia-focused ESPN Star, which bring in over 80 per cent of overall revenue, and the live broadcast of matches online as examples of how the commercial strategy is evolving.
Perera would not be drawn on sponsors replacing Brit and FriendsLife when their deals end this year but said new partners would be announced soon.