Major Events Management Act

Date:  31 July 2020

Just a few weeks ago New Zealand received the news that their Trans-Tasman bid to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup was successful.  This is great news for New Zealand sports and in particular women’s sports.  Prior to hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup, New Zealand is also set to host the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup and the Women’s Rugby World Cup.

Any major sporting event hosts large crowds and creates a wealth of advertising opportunities.  As reported by FIFA, the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup was viewed by 1.12 billion people!

Sponsors of the event are well aware of the scale their advertisements can quickly reach.  It is therefore crucially important that the organisers of the event put into place regulations to give sponsors their best return on investment.

Prior to hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2011, New Zealand had to pass the Major Events Management Act 2007 (“MEMA Act”).  The main purpose of the Act is to support organisers and sponsors against ambush marketing. The MEMA Act does not apply to all events in New Zealand.  Only those of a significant international level will be granted protection.  For example in 2017 the following events were deemed to be Major Events:

  • DHL NZ Lion Series;
  • The World Masters Games;
  • Rugby League World Cup

In the lead up to hosting the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup, the Women’s Rugby World Cup and the FIFA Women’s World Cup it is likely that these events will be deemed Major Events and special regulations will be set.

So what does the MEMA Act do?

The MEMA Act applies to one-off internationally significant major events.  It provides them with protection from ambush marketing.  In essence, it provides the sponsors with a number of avenues to stop people from advertising that they were part of the event, without supporting the event.

Ambush marketing is a strategy used by a company to associate its products, or services, with an event that already has official sponsors.  There are many different examples of Ambush marketing. One at the 2012 Olympics involved BEATS BY DRE headphones. The official sponsor was PANASONIC. However BEATS BY DRE delivered, free of charge, their uniquely styled headphones to athletes competing.  The athletics used their headphones when listening to music prior to their event and in complete public view.  BEATS BY DRE claim that their product sales increased from this. 

The MEMA Act is designed to help avoid these situations.  Part 2 of the MEMA Act provides 4 subparts to deal with Ambush marketing, including:

  • Association Protections – the protection of event emblems and words;
  • Intrusion Protections – clean zones, clean transport routes and clean periods
  • Ticketing-scalping protections – protections and penalties
  • Pitch invasions – where it is an offence to invade a pitch at a major sporting event

Association Protection

When an event is declared as a Major Event, the organisers will apply to the Ministry of Innovation and Employment (MBIE).  The process is a legislative process and is managed by the Major Events team, within MBIE.

Looking at the World Masters Games held in 2017 the details can be found in the Major Events Management (World Masters Games 2017) Order 2016.  This Act detailed the Declarations of Protection Period, Major Event Emblems and Major Event Words.

The period of protection started from 31 December 2016 and ended on 30 May 2017.  During this time, the following words were protected:



Furthermore, in Part 2 of Schedule 2 it was also deemed to be a breach of the Act if a world from Column A was used with a word from Column B:

Intrusion Protections – clean zones, clean transport routes and clean periods

In addition to the protection of the words, the World Masters Games also had clean zones around Queens Wharf in downtown Auckland and Eden Park, where some of the events were held.

The clean zones declared for the Rugby World Cup 2011 also included multiple transport routes, such as the drive from Eden Park to Albany Stadium on the North Shore.

Ambush Marketing

Despite the MEMA Act, companies still push their marketing to the boundaries, or in some cases too far – there are civil and criminal actions available under the MEMA Act.

Ambush marketing is not new and has been seen around the world for many years.  Some companies use it as an opportunity to see how close they can get their advertising, without breaching the Act.

By winning the rights to the FIFA Women’s World Cup the organisers will now go through the process of being declared as a major event.  It is likely that people will be unable to use the words Women’s World Cup or World Cup during a specific time frame. 

It is important to check the Acts and Gazetted publications associated with a Major Event. We keep a close eye on both of these, as we could be helping a sponsor or advising on how best to advertise your products in the lead up or during the time of the Major Event.

With such great sporting events coming up we will be monitoring these publications closely.  If you would like further information or assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.