On the 8th of July 2014, the Italian Advertising commission issued its first decision regarding ambush marketing. The case in question was Lay’s PepsiCo advertising campaign, starring Fabio Cannavaro and Lionel Messi, which was not finally considered to be ambush marketing.
The expression ‘ambush marketing’ was first used in the 80s with reference to the illicit exploitation of advertising opportunities unused by official sponsors of important events, but today it has assumed a different significance.
It now indicates any commercial practice through which a company or a brand illicitly associate their own image to an event or to its participants to exploit its communicative impact without bearing the expenses of sponsoring officially. In this specific case Pai (the official sponsor of the National football team) claimed that PepsiCo had piggy-backed on its notoriety by choosing Cannavaro (captain of the national team winner of the 2006 world cup) as a testimonial, and pointing out that he was also wearing a blue shirt in the spot. The advertising commission opposed such an allegation, admitting at most an implicit reference to the national team’s image rather than to Pai. Furthermore the commission stated that the mere connection of Cannavaro’s image to that of the national team’s was not sufficient to constitute a violation under section 13 of the Code of Advertising Conduct (CAP). This is because Section 13 not only ‘recognises and protects Cannavaro’s interest in exploiting his own image commercially but requires additional conditions than the mere exploitation of one’s notoriety to constitute an illicit conduct under the law.
The decision of the Advertising omission which declared Lay’s campaign in line with sections 1 and 2 as well as section 13 of the CAP. This is in accordance with the decision of the Tribunal of Turin which was called to decide upon the whole of PepsiCo’s promotion strategy on an urgent basis in the month of May. According to Pai there was more than one issue with Lay’s marketing strategy and in their advertising campaign starring Fabio Cannavaro. These were brand counterfeit, unfair competition, slavish imitation and misappropriation of attributes by the competitor. However the court of Turin has not granted the preliminary measures requested the applicant.