‘The Unclean’ still in limbo over RWC rules

The excitement is growing steadily for next year’s Rugby World Cup. And for some, so is the confusion.

Nigel Keats, managing director at OMD Wellington, says he is currently playing the role of “meat in the sandwich”, with the two slices of bread being OMD’s client Rugby 2011 (along with its sponsors) and the Ministry of Economic Development (MED), which is yet to decide on the exact enforcement of the rules surrounding clean stadia and clean transport zones that are part of the Major Events Management Act (MEMA).

Keats says he “can’t really go into it” at the moment, but he is currently trying to broker a solution between the two parties to get some clarification on what the the MEMA legislation means and how it will work. And when that clarification comes through, he is scheduled to report his findings to the Outdoor Media Association of New Zealand.

Keats says OMD booked a lot of billboards five years ago so New Zealand could go into the bid offering clean stadia (back in 2003, the inability to offer this was one of the major reasons New Zealand lost the bid). But at this point he says it’s still unclear which companies will be using them.

At present, there’s still some confusion around the specifics of the act and the interpretation of the rules, particularly with regard to one that allows exceptions to the clean stadia or transport route rules if “in accordance with honest practices in industrial or commercial matters, the advertising is done by an existing organisation continuing to carry out its ordinary activities”.

For example, if a competitor of one of the RWC’s’s sponsors (there are apparently 18, although this hasn’t been confirmed) decided to start booking space in and around stadia every week as part of their ‘ordinary’ activities, would it be allowed to keep the advertising there during the tournament? Keats says that’s “exactly the sort of stuff that needs to be clarified”.

“I’m pushing for [the answers], but ultimately we’re the party in the middle.”

Shane Harmon, Rugby New Zealand’s general manager of marketing and communications, didn’t return calls. But Emilia Mazur, communications advisor at the MED, says the MEMA clean zones won’t be determined for the RWC until September. The act says clean zones can only include areas that are “directly proximate to RWC venues or otherwise necessary for the RWC to occur”. And Adshels or billboards that are within clean zones, or that are clearly visible from clean zones, will be subject to restrictions on advertising during clean periods.

Some spoken to for this story were under the impression the clean zone was two kilometres around each stadium. But she says it is very unlikely that clean zones would extend as far as one mile from RWC stadia.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on the possible extent of clean zones and clean transport routes in advance of the Minister’s determinations. But it seems likely the process will result in a set of determinations that are less of a burden to businesses than is feared by some.”

Advertising in the clean zones will be prohibited unless authorised by the event organiser, or unless an exception, like the ‘ordinary activities’ chestnut, applies (check out the exceptions and a few hypothetical examples of how the law will be applied here).

“What constitutes the continuation of ordinary advertising activities will be a case by case question to be determined, taking into account the circumstances of any particular advertising,” she says. “It is not possible at this stage for the MED to advise whether hypothetical advertising scenarios would be able to take advantage of this exception.”

There is no provision in the MEMA for reimbursement to media owners/agencies if space is not used, but it seems likely the main RWC sponsors will take up all the media in the clean zones, both because of the number of eyeballs and traffic and because the visiting global chief executives will presumably be expecting to see their brands on display. In keeping with the recent Kiwi penchant for bumping up RWC prices, however, most also predict the rates will be ‘recalibrated’ by the media owners.

But if it turns out advertising space within these clean zones or clean transport routes isn’t purchased by the event organiser or sponsors, Mazur says it will still be subject to the MEMA. So, if it doesn’t classify as an exception, event organisers will still need to authorise any use of the space by other businesses and competitors.

As far as the clean transport routes go, only state highways, motorways or railway lines up to a maximum of five kilometres from the venue that are likely to be used by a substantial number of people to travel to a game can be declared clean. And the clean period during which restrictions will apply can only be the time that a RWC event is taking place and a reasonable period of time before and afterward.  She says it’s quite possible that some clean periods may be limited to the day of a RWC match.

Reasonable and ordinary are the two words that seem to be creating the confusion at present. Overall, guerilla marketing at the RWC will be difficult because the rules are likely to be strictly policed to protect the rights of the RWC sponsors. But in this creative realm, there’s also sure to be some creative interpretation of the rules (there’s already been a few examples of that, with many businesses already flouting the rules and only one being prosecuted).

“We intend to work with Rugby World Cup Limited and Rugby NZ 2011 Limited to update the MEMA guidelines (available here) to provide guidance for businesses on the restrictions that will apply when everything has been determined.”

About Author

Comments are closed.