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Riding on the coattails of the Tour de France

Print publication

04/02/2014

It is not just cycling enthusiasts that are counting the days until the Tour de France rolls into Yorkshire this summer. Local retailers are eagerly anticipating the arrival of thousands of potential new customers and it is already common knowledge that hoteliers have upped their prices. However, businesses looking to cash in on the Tour need to be mindful of the lessons from the Olympics two years ago and bear in mind that the Tour’s intellectual property rights are likely to be zealously protected.

Le Tour’s IP Rights

The name “Tour de France” and the well-known logo are registered trade marks owned by the Societe du Tour de France. The use of these marks, or marks which are confusingly similar, or which imply an association with the Tour without authorisation from The Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) – the Tour’s organiser – and Welcome to Yorkshire may result in infringement proceedings. Enforcement action may include a claim for damages, injunctions or orders to deliver up infringing goods or materials.

Companies wishing to use the Tour’s trade marks should also be mindful of ambush marketing which is often rigorously enforced by large sporting event organisers. Ambush marketing is the practice of riding on the coattails of a major sporting event, without paying sponsorship or licensing fees, in order to obtain free promotion for a brand. The organisers of sporting events are heavily dependent on sponsorship money to run their events and ambush marketing may undermine the value of the sponsor’s investment. This, in turn, makes it more difficult to attract future sponsorship. We saw this in 2012 when the organisers of the London Olympics attracted some criticism for the zeal with which they approached the task of preventing ambush marketing of the Olympics, the most notorious instance of which was of a cafe manager who was required to remove a display of five bagels in the style of Olympic rings. Probably the best known instance of ambush marketing at a sports event was during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when 36 orange-clad women were ejected from a match – they had been taking part in an ambush marketing stunt to promote “Bavaria” beer. The Tour is particularly well known for its cavalcade of sponsors’ vehicles which adorn the Tour route ahead of the peloton. As such, the Tour’s organisers will no doubt seek to “clean” the route of non-sponsored advertising.

Tour Best Practice

Businesses should avoid using Tour logos and slogans and from suggesting an association with the Tour unless they are licensed to do. If you are looking to use the Tour’s logos, or similar (i.e. as part of a corporate cycling team), you should first contact the ASO and Welcome to Yorkshire for permission. Think twice therefore being promoting a “Tour de Blubberhouses”!