Dec 10, 2009 at 03:57 PM
written by

Do Properties Bear Any Responsibility for Broadcast Ambushes?

IEG's Rob Campbell talks about ambush marketing in the video below, citing an example of Verizon's Fox buy around NFL broadcasts and how it conflicts with Sprint's NFL sponsorship.

We all hear lots of talk from properties about how evil ambush is, but it seems the best way for properties to "counteract" this, on behalf of their sponsors, is to stand up to their own broadcast partners and work out a fair solution that protects both parties interests (properties' sponsors & broadcast's revenue stream). Otherwise, the talk about protecting sponsors will be just that.. talk. In many cases, broadcast purchase is a requirement of sponsorship, but make no mistake, in more than a few instances broadcast partners facilitate ambush of many of their own property's partners. In this example from cricket, Indian broadcast partner (Neo Sports) upset the sponsorship rightsholder (World Sports Group) when it arranged a live in-stadium ad for one of their own advertisers, which was not an official sponsor.

You can't really blame savvy marketers for taking advantage of cost-efficient and creative new ways to "unofficially" associate and can you really fault broadcast partners for selling the inventory they are entitled to under a rights agreement? In my opinion, the responsibility falls on:

a) sponsors to activate their assets most effectively so that ambush is peripheral noise and;

b) properties to put talk into action when it comes to protecting their sponsors, even if this takes some tough decisions with regard to broadcast partners.

An extreme, but increasingly common example of this is properties that sell broadcast rights to a TV partner that then resells the naming rights for the broadcast and ignores the property's sponsor. Since properties initially control the rights, does some onus fall on them when this happens and partners are up in arms about ambush?

Bottom line: before signing a sponsorship deal, make certain you understand not only the inventory you'll be receiving, but the broader relationship and obligations between the property you're sponsoring and each of their respective media partners.

Just because you're a sponsor, doesn't mean you always fit in the picture. As new and increasingly fragmented forms of content distribution grow in popularity - mobile TV, applications, streaming video, etc. - technology evolution threatens to outpace our ability to account for all possible usage rights when deals are negotiated years in advance. Then again, that's what lawyers are for!