Protection for major sporting events in NZ & Australia

Thursday 10th April 2014

International sporting events present exciting opportunities for businesses to generate publicity and to benefit from being associated with such events.  However problems arise when parties seek to illegitimately associate themselves with the event – this is known as ambush marketing.  

New Zealand – MEMA

In New Zealand we have the Major Events Management Act 2007 (MEMA).  MEMA provides protection to organisers and sponsors of major international events that are held in New Zealand and which have been declared to be “major events”. 

For an event to be declared a “major event”, the event organiser must lodge an application with the Ministry for Economic Development.  The Economic Development Minister will then consult with the Commerce Minister and Sports Minister and, if satisfied, will make a recommendation to the Governor-General for an Order in Council to be made declaring the event to be a major event.

One way that MEMA provides protection against ambush marketing is by declaring certain emblems and words to be “major event emblems” and “major event words”.  During a defined period, referred to as the “protection period”, it is an offence for an unauthorised party to make a representation (such as in an advertisement) 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.
Recent international events given protection under MEMA include:

  • World Rowing Championships 2010
  • Rugby World Cup 2011
  • Triathlon World Cup 2011 Series Event and Triathlon World Championship Grand Final 2012

MEMA was instrumental in carving out protection for sponsors of the Rugby World Cup 2011.  The next upcoming international sporting event to be given “major event” protection is the Cricket World Cup 2015.  The Cricket World Cup 2015 will be held throughout New Zealand and Australia during February and March next year. 

The Major Events Management (Cricket World Cup 2015) Order 2013 (Order) came into force on 20 December 2013.  The Order declares, among other things, that:

  • The protection period for the Cricket World Cup starts on 20 December 2013 and ends on 15 April 2015
  • The “major event emblems” are:
  • The “major event words” are listed in Schedule 2 to the Order and include: Cricket World Champions, Cricket World Cup, Cricket World Trophy, CWC 2015, CWC Host, International Cricket Council, ICC, The Flagship of Cricket, and many other words and combinations of words.

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.  Clean zones and clean transport routes have not yet been declared for the Cricket World Cup 2015.

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.

Australia – new Bill before Parliament

Australia also has plans to protect the Cricket World Cup 2015 from being exploited by unauthorised parties.  The Major Sporting Events (Indicia and Images) Protection Bill 2014 was introduced into Parliament on 26 March 2013.  The Bill, if enacted, will protect three upcoming major sporting events:

  • Asian Football Confederation’s Asian World Cup 2015
  • Cricket World Cup 2015
  • 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games

For each event the Bill contains a list of protected indicia which, during the protected period specified for each event, may only be used by registered authorised parties, such as sponsors and “official users”.  In that regard it protects major event emblems and words in the same way that MEMA does.  It also allows official users to lodge notices with Australian Customs objecting to importation of infringing goods in relation to the event. 

The Bill does not go as far as carving out clean zones or clean transport routes.  However, some of the individual States and Territories in Australia have existing legislation in place to protect major events and provide sanctions for prohibited activities (for example, the Major Sporting Events Act 2009 in Victoria and the Major Events Act 2013 in South Australia).  Section 55 of the Bill confirms that it will operate concurrently with any existing State or Territory laws.


We expect that MEMA and the Australian Bill (if enacted) will play instrumental roles in discouraging and preventing ambush marketing and other illegitimate exploitations of the Cricket World Cup 2015.
Despite these rules, companies will inevitably attempt to push the limits of the law.  As with all rules, the efficacy will be directly linked to efforts made to educate the public as to what types of activities are permitted and to enforcement action taken when activities overstep the mark.

This article was written by Natalie Harre

Need more information?

Contact a member of our team:

Contact us

Baldwins' eNewsletter

Sign up to our monthly newsletter