Cheeky Kulula ads take on Fifa


ou have to chuckle at the cheek of budget airline Kulula’s witty advertisements that riled might Fifa, the body that rules global soccer and the power behind the World Cup. Without referring to ‘‘World Cup’’ or ‘‘soccer’’ one of the ads claimed Kulula to be the ‘‘non-official national airline’’ of the ‘‘you-know-what’’.

Fifa complained, pointing out Kulula wasn’t among the official World Cup sponsors so wasn’t allowed to refer to the tournament in any way in its marketing.

Fifa’s biggest gripe was that the combination of elements used in Kulula’s ad left no doubt they referred to the World Cup. And that’s illegal, they say, because Kulula didn’t buy the right to use the World Cup as a marketing tool.

Many South Africans not familiar with Fifa’s strict marketing rules can’t believe the soccer body can prescribe to local business what they’re allowed to do with the country’s national symbols.

Kulula’s group marketing director Heidi Brauer says, ‘‘It’s nuts to say we can’t use the words South Africa or images of footballers in close proximity to footballs or vuvuzelas or the national flag. No one owns these things. It’s like owning the sky.’’

But a law does prohibit such ‘‘ambush marketing’’, says lawyerJanine Holessen.

SA’s trademark legislation says companies may not tie themselves to an event unless they’re an official sponsor or have bought the advertising rights. So no one may unlawfully use any images connected with the World Cup.

For instance it’s illegal to use the numbers ‘‘2010’’ together with the words ‘‘South Africa’’, ‘‘RSA’’ or ‘‘SA’’ in an advert unless the company is an official sponsor of the 2010 World Cup.

Marketing columnist Chris Moerdyk commented that Fifa should never have taken Kulula’s campaign seriously. ‘‘All Fifa did was make the Kulula campaign even more of a success.’’

Read the full article in the latest issue of YOU.

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