Major Event – The Lions are coming!

Tuesday 16th May 2017

International sporting events present exciting opportunities for businesses to generate publicity and make the most of increased visitor numbers.  However problems arise when parties seek to illegitimately associate themselves with the event – this is known as ambush marketing.    

MEMA & the New Zealand Lions Series 2017

From 3 June to 8 July 2017 the British & Irish Lions[1] will take on the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, all five New Zealand Super Rugby teams, the Maori All Blacks and the All Blacks.  The New Zealand Lions Series 2017 is one of the most anticipated events in New Zealand since Rugby World Cup 2011 – over 20,000 international visitors are expected to follow the tour around New Zealand and international broadcasting of matches will reach over 200 million people.  The Series has been declared a “major event” under the Major Events Management Act 2007 (MEMA). 

MEMA helps to make New Zealand a more attractive place to host internationally significant events by protecting the commercial rights of event owners, organisers and sponsors. One way that MEMA provides protection against ambush marketing is that orders can be made declaring certain emblems and words to be “major event emblems” and “major event words”.  The major event emblems and words cannot be used without authorisation during a specific period – the “protection period”. 

The Major Events Management (New Zealand Lions Series 2017) Order 2016 (Order) [2] came into force on 30 September 2016.  The Order declares, among other things, that:

  • The protection period starts on 30 September 2016 and ends on 7 August 2017.
  • There are 11 major event emblems that cannot be used by unauthorised persons, including the following master brandmarks:


  • The major event words that cannot be used by unauthorised persons are: DHL New Zealand Lions Series 2017; DHL Series; Lions; Lions Series; Lions Tour; New Zealand Lions Series 2017; NZLS17; The British & Irish Lions; The Lions
  • The prohibited major event words also include particular combinations of words (as listed in Part 2 of Schedule 2), for example: Lions Tour + Bar, Lions + Travel Partner, The Lions + Den.

During the protection period, it is an offence for an unauthorised party to make a representation (such as in an advertisement, which could be a radio advertisement, billboard or simply a sign out the front of a shop or bar) suggesting that there is an association between the major event and that party’s brand or goods or services.  Any advertisement which includes a major event emblem or major event word is presumed to suggest such an association and will likely be held to be in breach of section 10 of MEMA.  Any person found to have knowingly breached section 10 is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $150,000.

Other protections provided by MEMA

In addition to association protections, MEMA also provides for intrusion protections referred to as “clean zones” and “clean transport routes” in which any unauthorised advertising is prohibited for specified periods before, during and after major event activity.  Clean zones include the match venue and areas directly proximate to the venue such as the surrounding streets and neighbourhood.  Clean transport routes include motorways, state highways or train lines which are 5km or less from the clean zone and likely to be used by a substantial number of people to travel to and from the venue. 

The Lions Series is being played at seven venues around the country – this means the relevant clean zone and clean transport routes will change from game to game throughout the Series. 

Businesses within a clean zone can support the event the same way any other business can, as long as they don’t use protected words and emblems or suggest any association that doesn’t exist.

MEMA also provides for notices to be lodged with New Zealand Customs to prevent importation of infringing goods and prohibits ticket scalping and pitch invasions (which includes any unauthorised persons entering onto a playing surface at a major sporting event or intentionally propelling any object onto a playing surface at such an event).  Anyone who is convicted of knowingly selling or trading a ticket to a major event for more than the original price of the ticket is liable to a fine not exceeding NZ$5,000.


MEMA will play an instrumental role in discouraging and preventing ambush marketing and other illegitimate exploitations of the New Zealand Lions Series 2017.  Until 7 August 2017 you should avoid making any suggestion of an association between your business and the Series, including using any of the major event emblems or major event words without appropriate authorisation.

There are however legitimate ways your business can promote itself during the relevant period to generate publicity and benefit from the Series.  Please contact us if you would like to discuss your options and how we can help your business. 

This article is intended to summarise potentially complicated legal issues, and is not intended to be a substitute for individual legal advice. If you would like further information, please contact a Baldwins representative.

This article was written by Natalie Harre

[1] The Lions are a composite team selected from players that are eligible to represent the national teams of England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales.  The Lions first toured New Zealand in 1888, but did not play against the New Zealand national team until 1904.  The Lions tour every four years and last toured New Zealand 12 years ago in 2005. 

[2] A copy of the Order can be viewed from the New Zealand Legislation website at:

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