Footballers’ commercial value has never been higher, and social media has been one of the key contributing factors for this. Social media has, without doubt, provided players with the ideal platform to reach global audiences, grow their personal brand and allow brands and fans alike the opportunity to get to know a player’s personality away from their on pitch persona. As such, it is more important than ever for footballers to realise the value of their image and take the necessary steps to grow, protect and commercialise their personal brand.
One way of achieving this is through registering trade marks and this article will provide some “top tips” on what they are and how they can be used.
What is a Trade Mark?
A trade mark is essentially a “sign” that is used to differentiate one person’s goods from those of others. They are used to communicate information about the product or service to which they are applied and they provide consumers with reassurance as to the origin of the product. Think, for example, of the Nike swoosh or the Adidas stripes which you can immediately associate with those brands and their associated qualities.
What rights does it give you?
Registering a trade mark gives the owner the exclusive right to use the mark in connection with the goods or services for which it is registered. To give an example, if you register your name as a trade mark in the clothing industry, you are the only person who can sell clothing with your name on it. Naturally, this prevents others from doing so and gives you the chance to control and grow your brand in the way that you want.
What can you register?
You can register a wide variety of marks, including names, nicknames, signatures, slogans, logos, designs, colours and even gestures. The more distinctive the trade mark the more likely it is to be registrable and also the stronger trade mark protection you will have once it is registered. It is therefore important to identify the key aspect of your brand identity and seek to protect it. Many footballers are taking a creative approach and are registering trade marks in not only their names, but their nicknames, goal celebrations and even their free-kick technique. Here is a selection of some well-known examples:
Selecting your Goods and Services
Trade Marks are registered in respect of goods and services divided into groups called “classes”. A carefully and strategically drafted specification will be important for both brand protection and brand exploitation and this is where we as lawyers can be of particular use.
Trade marks are territorial in nature so you should apply to register your trade mark in your key territories of interest - this may be where you are currently playing or where you have an interest in playing in the future. There may be other considerations, too, such as the nation hosting the next World Cup or European Championship. If you have a number of territories of interest, we can advise on a trade mark filing strategy that will meet your brand protection needs.
Exploiting your Trade Mark
Once your trade mark portfolio is in place you can start to benefit financially from a vast array of commercial revenue streams, including licensing deals, collaboration deals and merchandise sales. Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, has started up his own clothing line using the CR7 trade mark and signed up to a joint venture with the Portuguese hotel group, Pestana, for a new brand of “Pestana CR7” hotels. A more typical way of exploiting a footballer’s trade mark would be to do a collaboration boot deal whereby you put your trade mark on a football boot and take a cut of the sales revenues in return.
Preserving the Value
Once registered, it is important to monitor any third party use of an identical or similar mark; this may take the form of counterfeit goods or a brand trying to rip you off. Any unauthorised use may infringe your trade mark rights, which in turn affects the value of your brand. You should therefore identify a strategy which deals with infringers and takes into account the risk they pose to your brand. You should also be aware that trade marks in the UK are only protected for an initial 10 year period and they therefore need to be continually renewed to maintain their value.
To discuss how you may benefit from registering a trade mark, please
feel free to contact Chris and Alex using the below: