But if you are not an official marketing partner of FIFA, you are likely to get soccer's version of a red card -- indicating a serious infraction that could lead to penalties.
FIFA has a short list of six top-tier global marketing partners on its roster for the 2010 World Cup, which will be played in South Africa June 11-July 11: Adidas, Coca-Cola, Emirates, Hyundai, Sony and Visa. And its second tier of global marketing sponsors is limited to eight companies: Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser), Castrol, Continental Tires, McDonald's, telecom company MTM, IT consulting firm Mahindra Satyam, food service supplier Seara and Yingli Solar. There also is a limited listed of third-tier national supporters based in South Africa.
That's fewer than two dozen companies worldwide that legally have the right to use in marketing such terms as "2010 FIFA World Cup," "World Cup 2010," "FIFA World Cup," "South Africa 2010," "Soccer World Cup," "Football World Cup" and a plethora of others.
In fact, the list of trademarked and registered terms is so extensive that even the book whose main purpose is to define the do's and don'ts of marketing, The FIFA Rights Protection Programme at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, advises: "For the full list of FIFA trademarks in relation to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, please refer to the South African Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (CIPRO) or seek advice from an intellectual property attorney."
FIFA said that its list of trademarks was extended -- and will be even more heavily protected -- after the organization cited some 3,300 rights violations during the 2006 World Cup held in Germany.
But it has been "kind" enough to grant companies that are not official partners some leeway in marketing. Unauthorized ad campaigns can use the term "football in South Africa" and/or show the flag of South Africa. FIFA also states that "businesses can conduct non-specific football promotions, provided that no direct or indirect reference is made to the FIFA World Cup."
You certainly can understand why FIFA wants to protect its partners. As a case in point, Adidas paid $350 million for a seven-year deal (which expires after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil) to be an official FIFA top-tier partner, supplying game balls and outfitting FIFA officials and refs. It also guarantees that within its category only Adidas can use FIFA visuals in marketing, that only Adidas signage will be captured by media covering the event and that only Adidas soccer balls will be seen during the month-long tournament.
However, the effort is complicated by the fact although soccer leagues worldwide are under the auspices of FIFA, individual countries are free to cut their own deals with uniform suppliers to outfit their respective national teams. Adidas, for example, signed a multi-year deal in 2006 with the German Football Association, valued at nearly $26 million per year, to obtain exclusive rights to outfit the squad.
At stake here is a category in which the worldwide sale of soccer-related goods reached $10.8 billion in 2008, a non-World Cup year, and this year could exceed $11 billion, according to marketing consultant and research firm NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y.
Of the 32 nations that will participate in the 2010 World Cup, Adidas will be the official supplier of 17. But rival Nike has deals with 10, including the U.S. National Team, and via its Umbro division the national squad from England. And four other sports outfitters -- Puma, Brooks, Joma and Pirma -- also will get global recognition as official suppliers of team participating in soccer's biggest event. Bottom line: With the U.S. seeking to host the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022, the battle to protect marketing rights and to gain rights to visual branding being seen by hundreds of millions of people worldwide will only intensify.