UEFA Euro 2024
Credit: Poetra.RH, Shutterstock

UK sports marketing teams have been urged to ensure advertising around the upcoming UEFA Euro 2024 is restricted and adheres to industry codes of practice.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published a set of guidelines for sports marketers this week, with the competition due to commence on 14 June with Germany vs Scotland and the final set for 14 July 2024.

The Euros is one of the world’s biggest national sporting tournaments, arguably the second most significant in terms of brand exposure after the World Cup, alongside the CONMEBOL Copa America.

As a result of this, the ASA observed, marketers will want to try and associate their brands with national teams or UEFA itself. This carries risks, however, as these attempts could be misunderstood as falsely implying official endorsement. 

“The ASA take into account the overall impression provided by the copy, including text, images, icons and symbols so if you can’t walk the walk, avoid talking the talk,” the authority’s statement explained.

“If you have any doubt about the use of intellectual property, please consider seeking legal advice.”

The buildup to the tournament has unsurprisingly seen a plethora of big budget marketing and advertising deals signed. Notable partners include Coca-Cola, Lidl, Hisense, Bitburger and Betano.

Likewise, deals have also been inked with individual teams and athletes. Just last week, England midfielder Jack Grealish signed a deal with Hellmans, which is itself the official BBQ partner of EURO 2024.

These are all official partnerships. Marketing teams from companies which are not directly partnered with UEFA will likely want to find avenues for their brands to benefit from the Euros, but the ASA has explained how firms could be walking a fine line when it comes to intellectual property laws.

Zeroing in on the betting industry, the ASA added that gaming firms have some specific considerations in mind. The CAP Code has some strict requirements around betting advertisements that operators must adhere to.

Perhaps most significantly, anyone under the age of 25 cannot appear in betting ads – this includes footballers. This requirement is widened by a caveat stating that anyone with a strong appeal to younger consumers cannot be featured in betting marketing, meaning some athletes over 25 are also off limits.

The ASA explained: “Whilst there is an exception for websites where bets can be placed directly, ensure your ads don’t hit the wall by considering the advice available. Gambling ads must all watch that any star players in the ads don’t have a strong appeal to U-18’s too.”

Similarly, alcohol advertising is also subject to some restrictions. The culture of under-18 consumers cannot be depicted, and under-24 year olds cannot also not play a significant role in any material.

Like gambling, alcohol has a long commercial relationship with sports – the above mentioned Bitburger beer brewery is a domestic partner of Euro 2024 in Germany. Both have been facing increasing scrutiny, however, for promoting age restricted products in a market with a wide demographic reach.

Finally, marketers have been urged to avoid overly controversial marketing, as well as anything that may be seen as condoning or encouraging violence or anti-social behaviour. 

The ASA in particular referenced the famous, or infamous, ‘hand of god’ goal scored by Diego Maradona against England in 1986, and the continuing use of this in marketing. 

“Controversy, glory, and misery have created many memorable ads, but marketers need to make sure they don’t go in two-footed and see red for it,” the ASA said.

“Offensive stereotypes are still seen in ads and Marketers should carefully reflect on ads that may portray racial, cultural or national stereotypes. Though the overall tone of the ad will be considered, “it’s just banter” is not an excuse to cross the line.”

The Euros is now just two months away and the tournament seems set to repeat the marketing, media and commercial success of the 2020 edition. As companies look to capitalise on this, regulators will watch intently for any errors of judgement.

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