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Ambush tactics can prove very costly.

Byline: PETERSHARKEY

Agood friend who lives in Chepstow called yesterday in a state of deep concern after Ryder Cup Europe (RCE) announced it wanted to 'protect' people from being "duped" by what it calls "pirate operators".

You see, he and his wife have rented their house to two American couples for the duration but he fears he may have breached some law which prevents them from telling their American guests that their home is 20 minutes away from Celtic Manor.

RCE reacted after discovering that 'Ryder Cup' hospitality packages have been offered by an hotel five miles from Celtic Manor; the organisation's director Richard Hills said: "Make no mistake, customers will feel that this is misleading at best.

"Two global brands have contacted us in the past two weeks horrified to hear that they had booked unofficial and offsite hospitality and that as tickets cannot be transferred, they might not receive any valid tickets for the Ryder Cup.

"Luckily they were able to re-book with Ryder Cup Europe - the only official way to book.

"There are a number of pirate operators who claim they have genuine tickets, which simply is not the case. They also claim they are running shuttles to the course, which is impossible.

"Throughout the week, we have a series of road closures and restrictions that only allow shuttles from Ryder Cup Travel Services through the security cordon around the site."

The episode has brought the rather pejorative phrase 'ambush marketing' to the fore once again.

Yet for many, the term is an expression invented by critics of what, in a sizeable number of cases, is merely a form of marketing which happens to refer or allude to a sporting event, without suggesting any form of official endorsement from, or relationship with, organisers.

Of course, for event owners, 'ambush marketing' is potentially damaging because it threatens their ability to retain top-paying sponsors. Similarly, for the official sponsors, ambush marketing is undesirable because it increases the risk to their investment. Yet the 'ambusher' may argue that his actions are a natural result of free competition.

There are numerous forms of sportsrelated marketing that have been targeted by 'anti-ambush' laws.

Readers may be surprised to learn, for example, that the London Organising Committee (LOC) of the 2012 Olympic Games threatened novelist Robert Ronsson with legal action for publishing a novel entitled "The Donovan Twins: Olympic Mind Games".

According to the LOC, even a pub putting a blackboard outside its premises which says "watch the 2012 Games here" is breaking the law if the name of the pub is on the board.

The same view is taken towards hotels or restaurants offering Olympic deals. Incredibly, even schools deciding to hold an event to be called 'Summer Games' could well be acting illegally. The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 contains similar provisions to protect individual words such as "gold", "London", "summer", "games" and "2012".

Furthermore, the Secretary of State can add to this list. Seemingly innocuous phrases such as "Watch the Games here this summer" and "Come to London in 2012" have become unacceptable.

But it's not just RCE or the LOC who are closing roads and trying to clamp down on the use of specific words in order to 'protect' sporting sponsors (it's worth noting that around 90% of the cost of the Olympics will be taxpayerfunded), governments across the world have been outlawing 'ambush marketing' for more than a decade.

The trend began in Australia when its legislators sought to protect the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. South Africa followed suit before it hosted the 2003 Cricket World Cup, while last year, New Zealand introduced legislation which prohibits any form of advertisement which is likely to suggest an association between the ambusher and the event.

Though spending time and money enacting 'ambush' legislation may appear ridiculous, there's a compelling commercial reason underpinning such apparent zealousness.

In the eyes of many global companies and international event owners, South Africa and New Zealand have stolen a march on other nations: their 'ambush marketing' legislation makes them much more attractive to selection committees and sponsors when cities are being chosen to host high-profile sporting events.

Whether ambush marketing should be considered a criminal offence is an argument for lawyers. However, there is little doubt that when hastily-assembled laws vest broad discretion in officials employed to apply them, problems can arise. Furthermore, legitimate businesses must deal with the uncertainties associated with the implementation of such laws, making litigation more likely and their ongoing involvement with sporting events less likely.

Incidentally, once my pal told me his guests had already bought their own Ryder Cup tickets and have hired a car to head along the M48 towards Celtic Manor, I told him he could rest easy; the RCE will not be bursting his front door down anytime soon. I think.

CAPTION(S):

While the players will have their eyes firmly on the prize at the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, the organisers will be keeping a sharp eye out for any ambush marketing which will be clamped down on
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 16, 2010
Words:847
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