Which case won?

The case for the AOC
  • Telstra is misleading people into thinking it’s a sponsor of the Olympic Games when it is only a sponsor of a TV station
  • They gave their advertising agency a particular ambush marketing brief, asking the agency to "own an association with the Games"
  • The Telstra ad campaign (albeit via their Channel 7 deal) clearly relates to the Rio Olympic Games - the TV advertisement even uses the famous Peter Allen song, "I go to Rio"
The case for Telstra
  • We are the official technology sponsor of the Channel 7 Olympic broadcast and "Olympics on 7" app
  • We have been careful to have the wording of our support approved by the AOC
  • All advertising explicitly states we have a sponsorship with Channel 7, not the Olympic Games

So, which case won?

Cast your judgment below to find out
Case A Case B

Case B won. You were right!

How people voted
case a46%
case b54%

Expert commentary on the court's decision

“Just because Telstra’s ads were ‘Olympic themed’ didn’t mean they were also in breach.”
Why the AOC lost the case

The legislation that the court had to consider was the Australian Consumer Law, which governs misleading and deceptive conduct, and the Olympic Insignia Protection Act, which governs the use of “protected Olympic properties” in advertisements and promotional material.

The key question which the court had to answer was whether a reasonable person who saw the Telstra advertisements would think that a sponsorship or sponsorship-like relationship existed between Telstra and the Olympic Games.

Telstra deliberately associated itself with the Olympic Games

What was not in dispute is that Telstra did intentionally associate itself with the Olympic Games through its advertisements. This was spelled out in Telstra’s own marketing brief.

It was noted in the judgment that “Telstra was well aware that, in exploiting its commercial arrangements with Seven, it had to walk a fine line. It could promote the fact that it sponsored, or was a partner of, Seven’s Olympic broadcast. It could not, however, suggest or imply that it sponsored, or was affiliated with any Olympic body. The critical question is whether any of Telstra’s advertisements, promotions or marketing material crossed that line.”

Prominent disclaimer in television advertisements

There were three versions made of the Telstra television commercials. The judge described the first version as “perhaps borderline”, but stated that even this first version “does not cross the line”. The second and third versions, which were created after the AOC threatened Telstra with legal action, both featured a prominent disclaimer, which stated: “Telstra is not an official sponsor of the Olympic Games, any Olympic Committees or teams”. In respect of these, again the judge found that they “[did] not cross the line”.

It was also in Telstra’s favour that its advertisements did not mention or feature the International Olympic Committee, any image of the Olympic symbol, flag or emblem, or any current or former Olympic athlete or team.

AOC fails to prove that Telstra breached the law

The judge decided that it was not enough for the AOC to prove that Telstra’s advertisements were “Olympic themed”. The court took the view that the AOC had failed to prove that the advertisements “conveyed the alleged representation concerning sponsorship by or affiliation with an Olympic body or bodies”.

Not only did the AOC lose the case – it also had to pay Telstra’s costs, which would have been considerable. Given the muscle of Telstra’s legal department and the telco giant’s skill at the game of brinkmanship, one wonders if the AOC would have taken the case to court if, in the not unlikely event it lost the case, it would have been forced to spend its own money, rather than ours.

NOTICE: This article is accurate as at the time of publication and does not constitute legal advice. Please see our legal notices page for more information. Information related to coronavirus can be outdated very quickly.

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