South Africa's low cost airline and equivalent to Ryanair Kulula.com, has been called off sides by FIFA for its recent guerrilla marketing ads.
"A multimedia campaign by the fun loving airline brand featured advertisements with the headline, the Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What, showing stylized pictures depicting the Cape Town stadium, soccer balls, vuvuzelas and a soccer player has been withdrawn following a letter from FIFA threatening the airline with damages."
The offending advertisement (see above) was part of a campaign to communicate to passengers that it was not charging higher ticket prices during the World Cup. The South African public and local media have been very vocal about high prices from airlines and hotels in the run up to the soccer which kicks off in June this year.
Kulula has a reputation for irreverent, tongue-in-cheek marketing campaigns and the brilliant creative concept and headline "The Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What" has certainly unleashed a media firestorm as well as terrific local and international awareness for this upstart challenger brand. The response to the campaign has gathered momentum with people discussing the advertisement and FIFA'S actions on Facebook and Twitter, and the issue has also been picked up by the national media as well as BBC News.
FIFA says the ad campaign breaks the law with "ambush marketing" by, "Seeking to gain a promotional benefit for the Kulula brand by creating an unauthorized association with the 2010 FIFA World Cup." Like the IOC, FIFA is known to come down hard on any brand making even the slightest unofficial reference to their event.
The campaign, which is drawing an increasing following on the Internet, also challenged other carriers to keep their fares low during the World Cup. Kulula.com, for its part, broke the news to the country via Twitter, "Oh dear, letter from Fifa's lawyers says we broke their trademark of the use of 'South Africa'.
Kulula.com was not only told they could not mention the World Cup, but they also could not use the country's flag or even pictures of the country's new stadiums in their ad. They also could not use images of a "vuvuzela," a traditional South African horn that has been used by rowdy fans at soccer games in the country for decades.
Although Kulula.com has stopped running the ad, a spokesperson for the airline said that another tactical ad is being designed, so we'll need to watch this space! Whatever happens the online outrage it has provoked in South Africa toward FIFA, who seem to have trademarked everything South African, will probably earn this little airline some big marketing points in the run up to the World Cup Soccer.