The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has launched legal action against Telstra over allegations the telecommunications giant’s latest advertising campaign is "misleading" and suggests it is a team sponsor ahead of Rio 2016.
Documents filed in the Federal Court allege that Telstra’s "I go to Rio" marketing campaign is a "clear attempt to deceive Australians", given that the company severed sponsorship ties with the AOC last year.
In a statement, the AOC said it was unfortunate "some companies try to mislead the Australian public into believing they support the Australian Olympic Team or have an involvement with the Olympic movement when they don't".
"In 2015, Telstra and the AOC mutually decided not to continue their long-standing partnership," the statement added.
“It is therefore extremely disappointing to witness Telstra’s 'I go to Rio' marketing campaign which the AOC regards as a clear attempt to deceive Australians.
"Despite repeated attempts for cooperation, the AOC has been left with no choice but to seek appropriate legal measures in the Federal Court.
"To be clear, Telstra is not a sponsor of Australia’s Olympic Team and has no official role with the Olympic Movement."
Telstra says the promotions in question stem from its commercial partnership with the Seven Network, Australia’s commercial free-to-air television network.
"Our current advertising simply promotes that commercial arrangement and that Telstra customers get free access to premium content through the Seven app," a spokesman said.
"The AOC raised concerns with us and so we updated our advertising to include an explicit statement that Telstra is not an official sponsor of the Olympic Games, any Olympic committees or teams."
The AOC said it relies on commercial partners to fund the Olympic teams that represent Australia at the Summer and Winter Olympic Games
and the Youth Olympic Games.
"Without them, we would not be in a position to send 410 athletes to the Olympic Games in Rio," the Committee added in the statement.
"Commercial partners also help the AOC promote Olympic values and programmes throughout the country on a year-round basis."
Telstra’s partnership with the AOC is now held by its rivals Optus, which signed a 10-year agreement in December of last year.
In one of the AOC’s biggest-ever national sponsorship deals, the agreement saw Optus, the second largest company of its kind in Australia behind Telstra, become the official telecommunications partner of the Australian Olympic Team for the next three Summer and Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games through to 2026.
Australia’s delegations for the Summer and Winter Youth Olympic Games will also benefit from the sponsorship along with other teams the AOC prepares, such as that for the 2017 World Beach Games in San Diego.
The multi-year agreement gives Optus access to a sponsorship programme, including the partner recognition programme, Olympic themed promotions, branded merchandise, VIP events, Olympic Games tickets and hospitality and licensed product opportunities.