'Misleading ads' land Telstra in hot water with Australian Olympic Committee

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 16 July 2016

Telstra is being taken to the Federal Court by The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) over allegations its adverts are misleading and imply the telco is an official Olympic sponsor.

The AOC claims Telstra's "I go to Rio" ad is an attempt to deceive Australians into believing it is a sponsor of the Australian Olympic Team and breaches section 36 of the Olympic Insignia Protection Act 1987.

Last year, Optus replaced Telstra as the official telecommunications sponsor of the AOC. Demand for official Olympic sponsorship is stronger than ever with the AOC signing up a record number of partners for Rio 2016. The value of such sponsorship deals can range from $250,000 for a lower-tier sponsorship package to upwards of $5 million.

The International Olympic Committee and its national constituents fiercely protect the use of terms such as 'Olympic Games', 'Olympics' and the Olympic rings, the most valuable property in sport. The Australian Olympic Committee, which controls the Olympic rights in Australia, also funds the Australian team.

In its statement, the AOC said it was grateful for the support of its "true, valued partners" and would defend its right to protect them.

"Unfortunately, some companies try to mislead the Australian public into believing they support the Australian Olympic Team or have an involvement with the Olympic Movement when they don't," the AOC stated.

"In 2015, Telstra and the AOC mutually decided not to continue their long standing partnership. It is therefore extremely disappointing to witness Telstra’s 'I go to Rio' marketing campaign, which the AOC regards as a clear attempt to deceive Australians."

According to court documents obtained by Australian Financial Review Weekend, the AOC became aware of the advertising campaign on July 2, but was also aware from June 28 that Seven West Media had been running ads describing Telstra as the "official technology partner to Seven's Olympic Games broadcast".

Telstra says its current ads simply promote its commercial arrangement with Seven as Telstra customers get free access to premium content through the Seven app.

“Telstra has an existing commercial partnership with the Seven Network. Our current advertising simply promotes that commercial arrangement and that Telstra customers get free access to premium content through the Seven app," a spokesperson tells AdNews.

“The AOC raised concerns with us and so we updated our advertising to include an explicit statement that Telstra is not an official sponsor of the Olympic Games, any Olympic committees or teams."

Last week, Telstra was forced to alter its promotion of Seven's Olympics app to clear up the confusion. The banner below currently appears on Telstra's website.

Telstra Seven Olympic app promotion

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