How Trademark Worries Block “World Cup” Ads On Google

World Cup Google OneBox

The World Cup is one of the most popular events in the world, far surpassing the popularity of the Super Bowl, with millions of fans tuning in throughout the month-long tournament.

Soccer (football, to most) fans have already begun turning to Google for World Cup information, and search volume will continue to surge once play gets underway on June 12. Ironically, in what would seem to be a boon for the ad-driven search engine, the large percentage of “World Cup” results on Google.com will show no ads at all.

Google’s Keyword Tool in AdWords hints at the revenue potential for the search engine on a keyword like “World Cup 2014,” climbing to some 1 million searches in April. So why would Google forgo income from thousands of ad clicks?

Trademark protection. After finding itself in several legal disputes brought by trademark holders, Google has adopted a fairly generous stance on protection for brands.

Google World Cup Search Volume AdWords Keyword Tool

FIFA, the organization that runs the World Cup™ every four years, has trademark and intellectual property protection on a handful of World Cup-related terms. Even the seemingly generic phrase “Brazil 2014″ is included in that list. (Likewise, the Olympic Committee claimed “Sochi 2014″ for last winter’s Olympics.)

Google’s trademark protection policy prohibits advertisers from using third-party trademarks in ad copy, but does allow advertisers to bid on others’ trademarks as keywords in their campaigns.

For example, per the policy, a company advertising travel packages for the World Cup should be able to bid on the keyword “World Cup 2014″ and show an ad to soccer fans that doesn’t actually mention “World Cup” in the ad copy. But, typically, that’s not what’s happening. More often than not, Google is preventing ads from appearing at all on searches for these trademarked terms.

Instead of ads, users will most likely see what Google calls the OneBox, which in the case of the World Cup, displays key scheduling and results information for the games at the top of the search engine results page. The OneBox for the World Cup is even branded with the “FIFA World Cup Brazil” logo.

There are some exceptions. FIFA itself can advertise on its own trademarked terms, of course, and it can grant permission to the official World Cup sponsors and its affiliates. And, on rare occasion, another advertiser may sneak through. BrandVerity, which tracks usage on trademarked terms for brands, caught some of these rare examples.

In this screenshot, Soccer.com is advertising official World Cup gear in the top spot. The second ad is placed by Degree, the Official Deodorant of U.S. Soccer and the third, interestingly, is from subscription-based content aggregator OwnZone, which launched its World Cup coverage a few days ago.

Ads on Word Cup 2014

BrandVerity also captured ads from World Cup sponsors Budweiser and EA Sports as well as Major League Soccer and FIFA itself. For the most part, however, these types of searches will turn up ad-free. And the protections appear to extend beyond specifically trademarked terms to phrases such as “what time does the world cup start” and “world soccer tournament”.

Where the fence falls is on searches with specific consumer intent like “world cup gear” and “world cup tickets”. FIFA of course benefits from licensing deals for “Official World Cup” jerseys, balls as well as all ticket sales, so it’s no wonder advertising is allowed to proliferate on these types of searches.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Google | Google: AdWords | Search Marketing | Top News | World Cup

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About The Author: writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting. Beyond Search Engine Land, Ginny provides search marketing and demand generation advice for ecommerce companies. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter



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  • kudo shinichi

    The World cup is one of the most popular events in the world.

  • stinamx

    I’ve been searching everywhere to find a 5 star or LUXURY HOTEL like
    FASANO, COPACABANA PALACE or SHERATON type for that FIFA WORLD CUP and of
    course everything is SOLD OUT at the hotels; I finally found a site, paid a
    HEFTY PRICE but booked it yesterday for check-in tomorrow… I called the hotel
    today and ALL is A-OK with my reservation… Thanks http://14sb.com
    , YOU ROCK! They also had moderate pricing accommodations, teams’ hotels where
    players are staying and other hotels for all dates AND the FINAL! They book
    OLYMPICS, Super Bowl and other major sports events… THANKS http://www.WorldCupStadiumHotels.com !
    GO USA, GO MEXICO and GO BRAZIL!!!

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