Ambush marketing involves creating the impression that your business is linked with something when it is not. As the name suggests ambush marketing involves launching a surprise marketing campaign precisely at the right moment for maximum effect. The aim of ambush marketing is either to promote your product for as little cost as possible and/or to disrupt a competitor's marketing campaign.
When Is Ambush Marketing Used?
It costs a lot of money to sponsor events which will receive a lot of media publicity for example the olympics, the football world cup, national events and concerts. Some firms do not have marketing budgets to pay for this type of sponsorship or their application (bid) to sponsor the event may have failed. In such circumstances a firm may be tempted to engage in ambush marketing especially if an event is going to be sponsored by a competitor firm.
Politicians sometimes engage in ambush marketing to disrupt rival candidates election campaigns. This will involve the politician adding an amended version of the rival's promotional material to their own. The altered promotional material will highlight the flaws in the rival's election campaign.
Is Ambush Marketing Risky?
Ambush marketing has the potential to increase the profile of the business it belongs to either through the material used for ambush marketing or through the media attention created by the ambush marketing campaign. It is difficult to predict whether the profile increase will be positive or negative. Consumers may not notice the "ambush" and believe that the company is linked to the event or they could realise that the marketing is unauthorised and form a negative opinion of the business particularly if the ambush marketing disrupts their enjoyment of the event. As with all marketing campaigns before a company engages in ambush marketing they should weigh up the potential benefits against potential negatives. They should also make sure that their ambush marketing campaign will not break any legal rules such as legislation passed to protect events like the olympics from ambush marketing: see below.
Ambush Marketing Examples
There are many examples of ambush marketing, here is a small selection:
At the 2010 FIFA world cup match between Denmark and Holland 36 women wearing orange t-shirts and miniskirts with the Braveria brewery logos were asked to leave as Budweiser were the main sponsors of that event.
During the 1996 Olympics Linford Christie wore Puma AG embossed contact lenses during a press conference, even though the Olympics were being sponsored by Reebok.
2008 Beijing olympics lots of consumers believed Pepsi were the official sponsor when it was in fact Coca-Cola. Pepsi engaged in tactics such as changing the colour of their drinks cans from blue to red (red is considered a lucky colour in China) and printed photos of chinese winners from their online competitions on Pepsi cans supporting "Team China".
Can You Prevent Ambush Marketing?
Whether you can prevent ambush marketing completely or reduce its use depends on the event. Some activities such as the packaging companies use for their products may be difficult to control but other things such as use of advertising space around venues during events, may be easier to manage. As many examples of ambush marketing involve major sporting events, cities hosting such events now attempt to limit ambush marketing. For example the sponsors for the London 2012 Olympics are protected by strict legislation. Under the London Olympics and Paralympics Act 2006 companies risk jail and up to £20000 in fines, if their activities give the impression that they are associated with the London 2012 Olympic games when they are not an official sponsor. There are also regulations protecting advertising in zones around the London 2012 olympic venues. Advertising in these zones is not just restricted to traditional posters and billboards etc, it is any form of advertising including handing out merchandise containing non sponsor branding.
Ambush marketing can be a cheap way to disrupt a competitor's marketing campaign or sponsorship deal. However as the London 2012 Olympics example proves it is not as easy as it used to be. Any company wishing to engage in ambush marketing will need to think imaginatively, when it comes to creating an effective campaign that won't land them in trouble.
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