Can you use FIFA’s World Cup Trade Marks?

18th June 2018

With England’s first game tonight, the World Cup is now truly underway! Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you can’t have missed the football-themed ads increasingly filling our television screens or the merchandise flooding the shops over recent weeks.

But if you want to have a “World Cup Offer”, or World Cup themed event to promote your business you’ll need to comply with FIFA’s strict rules and guidelines on the use of their protected trade marks. Using an image of the World Cup Trophy, the Three Lions logo or sometimes even the word “World Cup”, without permission, could get you in trouble. 

If you want to know what is allowed, FIFA have produced extensive guidelines covering the use of their trade marks ( with a disclaimer… ‘Please note these guidelines are not a licence or legal document and do not confirm whether or not an activity infringes any rights’. Helpful for the non-lawyers.

Of course the reason for these restrictions is sound – the cost of organising the World Cup is immense and FIFA rely heavily on the support of their sponsors to pay for the spectacle (and Robbie Williams….). Those that contribute the most are known as ‘FIFA’s Rights Holders’, and they have exclusive rights to use FIFA’s trade marks for promotional and advertising purposes – including the 2018 World Cup emblem, the word “FIFA”, images of the trophy and the 2018 mascot (Zabivaka). 

To protect the value in their sponsor’s investment, FIFA’s lawyers send thousands of letters before action every year to prevent misuse. The prestige and value to a retailer of being an official Rights Holder is significantly diluted and much less attractive if other businesses can freely use the same logos. That’s a serious issue when FIFA are already struggling to support themselves and sponsor revenue has been falling (from £1,214m (Brazil 2014) to £1,085m today (Nielsen Sports)).

With key sponsorship and some big numbers at stake, FIFA are keen to make sure ambush (unauthorised) marketing using their brands doesn’t happen. This is where someone piggy-backs of the reputation of the World Cup by launching advertising campaigns, statements or images on products which could mislead consumers into thinking they are an official Rights Holder. To help businesses understand what can and can’t be done FIFA dedicate a page to ambush marketing on their web site ( 

If you are thinking about any marketing or advertising using a World Cup theme, holding a World Cup themed event or competition you will need to comply with FIFA’s guidance.  Helpfully, FIFA do allow some use of their trade marks, by non-Rights Holders, and there are useful examples of this you can follow to make sure you stay on-side   

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