Telstra has today been given the green light to continue airing its controversial television commercial promoting its sponsorship of Seven Network’s Olympics app.
It is a shock decision by the Federal Court and one which could have major ramifications for the advertising industry.
The Australia Olympic Committee launched legal against Telstra a fortnight ago, claiming the telecommunications giant was using protected Olympic phrases and slogans, misleading viewers into believing that it was the sponsor of the Australian Olympic team.
However, justice Michael Wigney said on Friday that the AOC did not demonstrate “any of the individual advertisements, marketing or promotions, or Telstra’s overall “Go to Rio” campaign conveyed a misleading or deceptive representation, or involved misleading or deceptive conduct”.
Speaking at the Mumbrella Sports Marketing Summit on Thursday, Stephen von Muenster, forecast that such a decision could have horrendous implication.
“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,” von Muenster said.
“However, tomorrow, if it goes the way I think it will go, then it will have a chilling effect.”
What we may well see in the future, which would be a disaster for sponsors, is a plethora of bold and misleading advertising campaigns aimed at deceiving the public and blurring the lines for sponsors.
Given the recent decision, how do companies such as the AOC police thier brand?
A perfect example of where this could turn ugly, is with the current kit suppliers of the Matildas, Nike.
The Matilda are wearing Adidas during the Olympics, as the three stripes are the apparel sponsor of the Aussie Olympic team, and thus the Matilda’s will in fact be wearing Adidas kits during the Games.
Imagine if Nike ran an ad promoting the Matildas chances at the Games wearing Nike kits, deceiving viewers into believing Nike are supplying the kits during the Olympics.
It is a dangerous decision that has been handed down by the Federal Court and one which may well set a precedent for future advertising campaigns to come dangerous close to crossing the line.