Companies love to use popular athletes to promote their goods and services. Companies must, however, agree on the use of a specific athlete’s image beforehand with the athlete. The unauthorised use of the athlete’s image can result in extensive claims for damages.

Both Parties Benefit from Sponsorships

Companies are increasingly using the name and image of specific athletes in their marketing. Companies seek to use the positive associations created by the athlete to boost interest in their goods and services, and they are willing to pay for it. Athletes also benefit from this kind of co-operation through increased visibility and financial benefit that will enable them to focus on practicing their profession.

The parties agree on the details of their co-operation, but their contracts are also governed by law, which sets out certain ground rules for sponsorships. ‘An identifiable person cannot be used in commercial or political advertisements without their express prior consent’, says attorney-at-lawSakari Salonen. ‘Using an athlete’s image in marketing without their permission is against good business practices and could result in liability for damages on top of a court-issued prohibition to continue or repeat such practices.’

Athletes Can Register Their Names as Trademarks

It is important for athletes to protect their brand in order to be able to best benefit from their own goodwill value. ‘Athletes can protect their brand by, e.g. registering their name or some other mark for which they are well-known for as a trademark’, says Salonen.

Once the trademark is registered, the athlete has even better chances of commercialising their brand. One option could be creating a namesake product line, something that tennis champion Björn Borg and football star David Beckham, for example, have done successfully.