17 December 2020

There is hardly an aspect of modern professional sport that remains untouched by commercial sponsorship.  Team kits and track-side hoardings have always been obvious targets for sponsors’ logos (check out any F1 car or driver for a masterclass in space allocation) and the landscape has only been getting more crowded.

Marketeers have needed to be increasingly imaginative to stand their brands out from the crowd. Thirty years ago, anamorphic 3D logos made their first appearance on pitches, where they could be clearly viewed by TV cameras but looked decidedly odd from any other angle. Whole stadiums and entire sporting series regularly benefit from ‘naming rights’ endorsements and even tattoos (both permanent and temporary) are favourites with cheeky ambush campaigns.

Match officials, on the other hand, have tended to be less festooned with branding than the players they oversee. But even they can be fair game, witness EA Games’ long-term partnership with the English Premier League’s soccer referees.

So where next for an aspiring sponsor? In a fantastic bit of creative thinking, Unilever has scored sponsorship of Cricket Australia’s Big Bash umpires for its deodorant brand Rexona. The Rexona name and ‘tick’ logo will be embroidered into the armpits of the umpires’ shirts, where they will remain hidden for most of the match. Only when the umpires raise their arms to signal something momentous like a six or a wicket will the branding be revealed in all its glory. It is a genius combination, especially for a deodorant brand and a sport played in the full glare of the summer sun.

Sport has suffered under COVID as much as any other economic sector, with fixtures cancelled or played without paying spectators. It is therefore more important than ever for sporting organisations to maximise revenue from commercial sponsorship, and Cricket Australia looks to be having a record-breaking season in 2020/21, pulling in approximately AUD70 million.

Some commentators might suggest Australian cricket has long had an underarm problem, going back to Trevor Chappell’s infamous delivery against the Kiwis in 1981. If you are considering your own sponsorship campaign, our specialist sports and branding lawyers can help you navigate the laws of the land and, indeed, the Laws of the Game.

This memo presents an overview and commentary of the subject matter. It is not provided in the context of a solicitor-client relationship and no duty of care is assumed or accepted. It does not constitute legal advice.

© Moulis Legal 2020