What is Ambush Marketing?

By on November 24, 2011

It is a kind of marketing strategy where a brand tries to take advantage of a major event (especially sporting event), by trying to associate itself with the event without becoming the official sponsor. According to Macmillan English Dictionary, “Ambush Marketing is a marketing strategy in which a competing brand connects itself with a major sports event without paying sponsorship fee.”

Types of Ambush Marketing

  1. Direct Ambush Marketing – The efforts by any advertiser to directly associate itself with any event, either by falsely claiming to be an official sponsor, by inventing a connection with any event or property which does not involve monetary payment or by illegitimate use of logos, symbols, names associated with the event or any sportsperson involved in the event.
  2. Indirect Ambush Marketing – The efforts of any brand to link itself with a sporting event through the use of imagery and names not protected by intellectual property rights, or by creating a “parallel campaign theme” that has same appeal as the official sponsor, or by distracting people from the event by creating a similar event or activity as the main event.
  3. Incidental Ambush Marketing– The efforts of a brand to gain mileage out of event simply through heavy media spend during the event, without making any direct or indirect references to the event. It is just an attempt to distract audiences from the event’s official competitive sponsor, by showing much more their own ads.

Since the eighties, most of the major sporting events like Olympics and football and cricket world cups have seen some form of Ambush marketing. During 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Nike sponsored the press conferences of the US Basketball Team, Despite Reebok being the official sponsor of the event. Ambush marketing in Cricket (and thus in India) came to the forefront during the 1996 Cricket World Cup, when Pepsi famously executed a smash hit campaign called, “Nothing official about it” with all the major international cricket players, despite Coke being the official sponsor. Coke paid all the moolah to be the official sponsor, but Pepsi ran away with all the buzz. During 2000 Sydney Olympics, Quantas Airlines coined a new slogan “Spirit of Australia” which sounded similar to the Games slogan “Share the Spirit” despite Ansett Air being the official sponsor.

Recent Trend

Nowadays, ambush marketing has moved beyond the confines of sporting events and can mean a general attempt to “ambush” a competing brand in any kind of campaign setting. The examples given below will explain more.

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