Image rights refer to the right to use someone’s name, reputation, performances, promotional services or image (or any right or quasi-right associated therewith) for any commercial purpose.
In principle, the image rights of a football player always belong to the football player himself unless the player has transferred them to a third party if the football player has agreed to such transfer.
This means that a football club granting one of their sponsors the right to use the image of one of their players can only do this if this club has acquired the prior consent of the player that the sponsor can indeed exploit his image rights. Most of the time this is done through the labour contract or the image rights contract.
To maintain and increase the value of the image rights, it is important to keep control over the image rights and their exploitation. More and more players are using specialised companies to manage their image rights. For players with different roles (national team, club, private) it is not always a simple task to keep track of all parties using and exploiting the image of the players. Sometimes even parties with conflicting interests can exploit the image rights of a player. It is therefore not a bad idea to appoint a specialist who can keep track of the image rights agreements and their details.
By way of example: Coca Cola is the sponsor of the Belgian national team and uses, among others, the image of Vincent Kompany in one of their campaigns. At the same time Pepsi is one of the personal sponsors of Kompany (ie outside of his role as a player at the national team or as a player of his club). It is quite clear why this could cause conflicts and issues.