FIFA accuses Pepsi of 'ambush' campaigns

World Cup organiser FIFA has ordered Pepsi to pull a campaign in Argentina and is investigating similar campaigns in Mexico, Ecuador and Russia in a global clampdown on 'ambush marketing'.

FIFA has accused Pepsi of using "below-the-belt techniques that imply it is an official sponsor of the World Cup tournament, when in fact its rival Coca-Cola has paid £20m for that privilege.

The action is the latest of around 500 legal cases by FIFA, which is determined to stamp out guerrilla tactics by non-sponsors. FIFA said it had achieved a court ruling in Argentina banning a Pepsi TV and press ad that suggested a "presumed sponsorship relationship between Pepsi and the FIFA World Cup.

The campaign is said to have put the words 'Tokyo 2002' alongside famous footballers and associated them with the Pepsi logo.

"FIFA regrets that corporations engage in ambush marketing activities and is particularly disappointed to see a global company like Pepsi employing these below-the-belt techniques that harm the World Cup. They should know better, said Patrick Magyar, chief executive of FIFA Marketing.

Lawyers for FIFA are also investigating Pepsi ads in Mexico, Ecuador and Russia that it believes infringe World Cup trademark and intellectual property rights.

Coca-Cola has been an official World Cup sponsor for the past six tournaments, leaving Pepsi with the task of tapping into the tournament's popularity in a different way.

Pepsi's strategy in the UK has been to sign up key players such as David Beckham. Well in advance of the current tournament Pepsi began a high-profile TV ad showing its stars taking on a team of sumo wrestlers.

Coke is the only soft drink brand to appear on perimeter advertiser hoardings.

It also has pouring rights at games and an allocation of tickets for corporate hospitality.

"FIFA has gone overboard on control this time, said a spokesman for Pepsi International. "We sponsor some of the best players in the world and its up to our markets when they run their ads, but we don't use World Cup language or trademarks."

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