Moment Of Truth For Brands At Olympics

While this is no new phenomenon, Olympic athletes express displeasure in using their name and image for a brand's commercial gain; take the legal route

Just like the previous years, brands were quick to capitalise on the popularity of the Olympics this year as well and beam under the spotlight through various moment marketing tactics. However, it is not going very well with the players, who are presenting their dissent towards brands gaining through such gimmicks. 

Baseline Ventures, the sports marketing firm that represents P V Sindhu has expressed its displeasure in using the two-time Olympic medallist’s name and image in adverts without seeking permission. It hints towards a complete breach of their IPR and privacy. 

In an official statement to us, Yashwanth Biyyala, Director - Talent and Partnerships, Baseline Ventures states, "We have spent a lot of time and effort in making these athletes into brands and finding the right, long-term partnerships for them. We try to utilise their money to better these athletes' performance. Hence, given everybody's effort and money, we don't want to take it easy this time. We want the brands to get the right picture that they should not take an athlete and his win for a ride. 

Brands must have some clarity in how they approach a situation. They must not hide behind a grey area saying it is moment marketing for them. The rules are black and white. Without consent, they can not use an athlete's name and image with your brand logo. It is unfair to the athletes and the brands that partner with them."

He further adds that legal notices are being sent to Happydent (Perfetti), Pan Bahar, Eureka Forbes, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Vodafone Idea, MGMotor, UCO Bank, PNB, SBI, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Fino Payments Bank, Bank of Maharashtra, Indian Bank and Wipro Lighting.

Three years ago, Baseline Ventures, on behalf of Prithvi Shaw, had also sued Swiggy and Freecharge after they put up posts on social media that played on the cricketer’s maiden century. While this is no new to the sports ecosystem, it is certainly raising serious questions on marketing ethics. 

ASCI Steps In

The Advertising Standards Council of India has come forward and disapproved of brands that took the above to advantage. 

“When ads refer to or showcase celebrities without their explicit permission, such ads are in potential violation of the ASCI code as these are misleading to consumers, who may think that these celebrities genuinely endorse these products,” asserts Manisha Kapoor, Secretary General, ASCI.

Netizens Exhibit Low Opinion

Even the netizens took to various platforms and expressed how these brands made such prestigious wins all about themselves. 

Marketing experts advise a balanced approach from both ends- brands not exploiting a celebrity’s achievement for commercial mileage and celebrities not scanning such ads with suspicion. A certain level of sportsmanship and an ethical route must be aimed at. 

Besides, they believe that leveraging moment-marketing gimmicks may stand unfair to the genuine firms who have invested and supported an athlete round the year. Biyyala too shares, "The bigger part is Sindhu's current brand partnerships. They all are following the IOA standards and policies. None of them is activating at the moment. If the genuine partnering brands can adhere to the consent, then the non-paying brands must not jump in and call their moment marketing acts as congratulatory messages."

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