As South Africa gears up for the 90th Comrades Marathon on Sunday, 31 May 2015, the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) has issued a very strong warning to so-called ‘ambush marketers’. The CMA has noticed the disturbing trend of ambush marketing tactics being used at the Comrades Marathon over the past few years. This marketing strategy has once again come to the fore as businesses gear up for the ‘Up-Run’.
This opportunistic marketing ploy is used by businesses and individuals to market and promote their branded products and services in the run-up to an event, during the event and even thereafter. These businesses and individuals have no legal link to the event, in this case the Comrades Marathon; but illegally exploit the event as a marketing platform for their products and services.
The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) provides a very comprehensive definition of ambush marketing: ‘It is the attempt by an organization, product or brand to create the impression of being an official sponsor of an event or activity by affiliating itself with that event or activity without having paid the sponsorship rights fee or being party to a sponsorship contract.’
Integral to the ambush marketing tactics is the unauthorized use of Comrades Marathon registered trademarks such as the brand itself as well as terms “Comrades Marathon”, “Amabeadibeadi”, “The Ultimate Human Race” and the “Figure of Hermes”, the official registered logo of the Comrades Marathon. These trademarks have been registered with the Registrar of Trademarks in Pretoria and have also been registered in terms of the Heraldry Act No. 18/1962.
CMA General Manager, Chris Fisher says, ‘The CMA is totally against ambush marketing. Our sponsors and partners make huge investments in our race and brand not only in terms of money, but in terms of manpower and products and we will “not allow” non-sponsoring companies to use the race or brand as a platform to market their products or services. If you are not a registered sponsor of the event it is illegal to try to create the impression that you are or that you are somehow associated with the Comrades Marathon. A full list of official sponsors and partners is available on the Comrades website. We will be obliged to use the full force of the law to act against transgressors.’
All businesses and individuals seeking to use these registered trademarks for advertising and marketing purposes need to obtain written permission for this from the CMA.
On Comrades Race Day, the route will be monitored by the SAPS and a team of specially trained ‘route monitors/ brand sheriffs’ to identify unauthorized marketing activities. Such officials will confiscate illegal products and the guilty parties will be removed from the route. The CMA as well as its sponsors and partners reserve their right to institute legal proceedings where it is deemed to be necessary.