updated 3/19/2010 6:16:18 PM ET 2010-03-19T22:16:18

A South African budget airline has dropped a national newspaper advertisement after FIFA complained it breached "ambush marketing" laws surrounding the World Cup.

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The airline, Kulula, ran an ad describing itself as the "Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What" in the country's Sunday Times newspaper on Feb. 28.

FIFA's lawyers notified Kulula the ad — which also had an image of the World Cup stadium in Cape Town — violates South African law and created "an unauthorized association with the 2010 FIFA World Cup."

The airline, which is renowned for its unconventional marketing style, said FIFA told it not to use footballs or the words "South Africa" or the South African flag in its advertising.

Kulula dropped the ad but said it was "ludicrous" that it could not use items relevant to South Africa today.

"It's nuts to say that we can't use the words South Africa or images of footballers in close proximity to footballs, or vuvuzelas (plastic trumpets) or the national flag," Group Marketing Director Heidi Brauer told The Associated Press on Friday

"No one owns these things. It's like owning the sky," Brauer said.

The company said it dropped the ad after receiving a letter from FIFA's lawyers on Mar. 11.

FIFA, which is protective of its World Cup trademarks and official sponsors, said it had asked the airline to "cease misrepresenting that Kulula have any connection in the course of trade with the 2010 FIFA World Cup."

"For the record, FIFA did not tell Kulula that they could not use soccer balls, or the word 'South Africa', or the Cape Town stadium, or the national flag or vuvuzelas," FIFA said in a statement sent to AP by e-mail.

Teams of the 2010 World Cup"FIFA made it clear that it was the combination of all of these elements plus the phrase 'unofficial national carrier of the 'you-know-what'...and the Kulula trade mark in the advertisement which constituted the act of ambush marketing."

Brauer said Kulula knew it was pushing the boundaries with the newspaper advertisement.

"Our advert was in typical Kulula cheeky style," she said. "But we wanted to be positive and encouraging of all things World Cup and supportive of FIFA and the World Cup. Our intention is not to slight FIFA's laws and principles."

Dubai-based Emirates is FIFA's official airline and the sponsor carrier of the 2010 World Cup, but it does not operate domestic routes within South Africa. In the absence of a local sponsor airline, Kulula will compete with Mango, 1Time, British Airways, South African Airlines and SA Express for the lucrative World Cup market.

Kulula is expected to carry hundreds of thousands of fans during the June 11-July 11 tournament because of the long distances between host cities and the lack of a reliable rail network in South Africa.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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