Has Usain Bolted the Gates on His Brand?

Following this week’s events at the World Championships, where we saw Usain Bolt’s career finale in a loss to US athlete Justin Gatlin, Sharon Daboul, Senior Associate at EIP, discusses with Lawyer Monthly the future of Usain Bolt’s long-lasting brand and trademark(s).

As Usain Bolt prepares to end his glittering career in athletics, it seems an apt time to consider how he might capitalise on the fame and image he has built alongside his achievements. Bolt has registered a number of trademarks, covering his name, the “lightning bolt” pose, his signature, the slogan “BOLT TO THE WORLD” and most recently, his initials. Collectively, these show that he understands the importance of protecting and commercialising his personal brand.

Whilst Usain Bolt has made his name as a sportsman, his brand insignia can be used to sell a huge range of merchandise, from perfume to clothing to sports products. Licensing can generate a valuable income that will outlive his years as a sportsman. Through careful brand management, his name and image have the potential to become his most important asset, and lasting legacy. An example is the tennis champion Fred Perry, whose name is now synonymous with fashion and sportswear, far above his tennis career as an individual.

The “lightning bolt” pose has been registered as a figurative mark, which means that he could stop others from using that logo, or a similar sign, on merchandise.

It’s unlikely that he could stop others from copying the physical gesture itself, nor is the gesture likely to meet the requirements for protection as a trademark. This means that fans, and other personalities, may imitate the pose without having to pay royalties. Trying to prevent others from imitating his gesture would seem counter-productive, in any event, as the gesture is used as a promotional tool which helps to elevate his status. However, Bolt now has the exclusive right to sell clothing and other merchandise bearing its likeness.

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