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Image from INEOS

By Caroline Wanjiru

Today we pause our continuing IP series to dedicate this entire blog to the one and only Eliud Kipchoge. Why you ask? How is he related to your core business- IP? Well, there are several reasons as to why we had to do this. Most importantly, Eliud is a Kenyan champion. He is an athlete who holds several titles including 2016 Olympic Marathon Winner 2018 World Record Holder with 2.01.39 just to name a few. He is personne extra ordinaire. More OF his achievements here. There are many things to write about Eliud but for today we shall discuss his upcoming challenge. You see, no athlete has attempted to break the current world record held by Eliud set in Berlin. So he took it upon himself to break his own record by running the 42km Marathon in a record time of 1.59.59. In this journey which he has documented in his various social media accounts, he has partnered with INEOS who are also the organisers of the challenge. The challenge is set to happen in Vienna, Austria for various reasons including weather and the course for the marathon. The challenge is tentatively planned to happen on 12th October, 2019 with the confirmation of this date from INEOS Performance Team planned for 9th October. From this side of the desk and the whole CIPIT Team would like to wish Eliud nothing but the best and this blogger promises to cheer him to the finish line. As Ben Cyco says, Cheza kama wewe!!

The second reason for dedicating this to Eliud is the commercial aspect that the challenge presents both to him and to the partners, official and unofficial. This part is meant to provoke everyone who reads it and to see the challenge from an IP perspective. In the challenge, Eliud will be wearing brands such as Nike and the event will be live on KBC, Standard group (KTN), NTV and Citizen TV in Kenya. There are other broadcasters all over the world. Nike have further specially designed 3-D printed Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% shoe for Eliud which is aimed to give him peak performance. With such official sponsorship it is expected that Nike and Eliud, the companies will benefit commercially, directly and indirectly. This could be in the form of increased sales and reputation of the companies and that of the products endorsed by the athlete.

During the challenge, the broadcasters broadcasting to millions of people will not only focus on Eliud and also every other entity whose product which will be exhibited. This is advertising, creating brand presence, consumer awareness which in turn creates consumer loyalty. The resulting effect is a presumption by the consumers is that for an entity to be associated with such a challenge, their products (and services) must be of a certain status or quality. Such impact would ordinary times take time to create. The consumerism, the loyalty and pride resulting from this impact has a direct co-relation with the athlete. It is against this background that this blogger argues that such association should then be accompanied by commensurate commercial value to the athlete as well as the company. 

It is notable that Nike have not included Kenyan flag or any of the insignia on Eliud’s training apparel. To openly and constantly associate him with his home country from the beginning of the journey. Maybe this will be in the challenge’s apparel. Or are we being overly clingy? Anyway and back home, some companies have sought to associate themselves with the challenge. Isuzu East Africa has offered the athlete a double cabin pick up worth 5.9million should he break this record. In the press release, Eliud is seen wearing Isuzu branded jacket. The Kenyan Telco, Safaricom has today unveiled a new M-Pesa Logo which will be used for the next seven days to support Kipchoge.

The company indicated that the intention was to be an Eliud Kipchoge’s ambassador in the same way as he is to Kenya. Additionally, Safaricom will be offering free SMS sent to the digits ‘159’ which will be aired live on Kenyan Televisions during the challenge. It is this blogger’s hope that other than the ”ambassadorial support” offered by Safaricom and any other company intending to use his image, they shall simultaneously present him with commensurate commercial support in the challenge or after the challenge.  

Lastly, it is possible that songs will be written about Eliud. About the Kenyan Champion who broke his own record because no one could. About the challenge that proved #Nohumanislimited. About an athlete from the tea producing Nandi County-Source of Champions. In relation to this, we leave the readers with some questions: should the income from such songs be shared with Eliud? Should the songwriters seek his authority before writing or singing about him? Should he be allowed to say he does not want to relate with any musician/writer? Has Eliud gained such publicity as to convert him into such a public as to limit his right to enjoy the fruits of his image? Can image rights be exhausted or extinguished? Should the songwriters receive income when they are not remitting it to Eliud as the source of their inspiration? As any lawyer would say, it depends.   

In conclusion, Eliud’s challenge raises issues most relevant one for this blogger being the commercialisation of IP and the various forms of IPs up for commercialization. They include the trademarks-brands-future branded items, the hashtags used as slogans, copyright in current and future songs, the registered patent and designs, Eliud’s image rights among others. It is clear that Eliud is a brand on his own. This challenge is only one example of the importance of intellectual property and related intellectual property which we shall endeavour to address in details in the near future.

In the meantime, Go Go Eliud!