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Ambush Marketing: A Foul Play

Thieves knowingly stealing something that does not belong to them- M. Payne

A marketing technique that involves one company taking advantage of a major event for promoting their brand without paying for the sponsorship in the event. This technique is cleverly used by many companies by connecting them with the event for getting free promotion and to compete with their competitors who are official sponsors of the event.

The acts of ambush marketing are not illegal and hence companies use this for gaining exposure and increasing market shares. The aim behind this is to gain a profit without expending or investing in the sponsorship. It is like gaining profit and achieving success without even investing in it. It works on the motto The more attention they garner, the better Ambush marketing is prevalent in the sporting events like Olympics, commonwealth games, Football, Cricket World Cup, etc.

Definition by Sandier and Shanistates "a planned effort by an organization to associate itself indirectly with an event in order to gain at least some of the recognition and benefits that are associated with being an official sponsor"[1]In this act the publicity and promotion of the brand who is the official sponsor of an event or a campaign get jeopardized.

Therefore, it becomes difficult for an official sponsor to ripe benefits from his sponsorship as the ambusher takes over as a pseudo sponsor. An ambusher tries to capture the reputation, marketing, and popularity of the event without taking the permissions from the concerned parties. As it is a saying that it�s the survival of the fittest ambush marketing is one of the greatest examples.

Types Of Ambush Marketing
Ambush marketing is divided into two types:
  1. Direct Ambush Marketing
  2. Indirect Ambush Marketing

Direct Ambush Marketing
Direct ambush marketing is when a brand works aggressively with its marketing strategies for associating itself with an event while they do not have any legal or purchase right for being an official sponsor. The sole intention is to attract customers and steal the limelight from an official sponsor.[2]Direct Ambush marketing is further divided into four categories mentioned below:
  1. Predatory Ambushing:
    It refers to the marketing strategies where a company intentionally attacks the official sponsor with an aim to create confusion among the fans about the true sponsor of an event. One of the greatest examples is American Express and VISA. During the winter games of 1994 whose, the official sponsor was VISA but American Express used the technique of Predatory Ambushing and made a commercial with an official tagline So if you're traveling to Norway, you'll need a passport, but you don't need a Visa."[3]
  2. Coattail Ambushing:
    It refers to the technique where a company gaining more exposure than the official sponsor of the event, by sponsoring an individual in an event. It is an act where brands use the link for getting associate with an event rather than getting an official sponsorship. One of the greatest examples is when Reebok was the official sponsor in the Atlanta Olympic Games, while PUMA their rival stole the limelight where the Athlete Lindford Christine was wearing glasses with their logo in a press conference.
  3. Property or Trademark Infringement:
    It refers to a strategy where the company uses the trademark of an advertiser with the intention of misusing and creating confusion among consumers. The example that describes it clearly is when the organizers of the London Olympic Games banned the use of words like gold, summer, bronze in marketing campaigns throughout the city. As they believed that it is an infringement of their trademark as it is associated with medals and it would divert the focus of the fans.
  4. Self-Ambushing:
    It refers to an act by the official sponsor where they breach the limit of the company�s sponsorship agreement and takes action that is beyond the contract. It happens the company violates the sponsorship agreement by performing certain activities which were supposed to be performed by the other sponsor. One of the examples is when Carlsberg was the official sponsor of the UEFA European Championship in 2008 they distributed the headbands and t-shirts with their logo on but this was not a part of an agreement[4]. Hence, this act violated the sponsorship of the other brand that was supposed to that.

Indirect Ambush Marketing
Indirect ambush marketing refers to a marketing strategy where a company indirectly attaches itself to an event with an aim to promote its product and get more exposure. The brand does not steal or attack the limelight of the official sponsor but they use indirect methods like using a similar image, symbols, and photos for creating confusion among the viewers. Indirect marketing is further divided into the following categories:
  1. Associative Ambushing:
    It refers to when a company attaches itself indirectly with the official sponsor of the event by using the terminology or images that are not protected by Intellectual property law. The aim to create an illusion among the audience that they are part of an event
  2. Distractive Ambushing:
    It refers to when a company creates a promotional presence by setting up hoardings at the nearest gate or within the vicinity of the event but does not make any specific reference to the event. The aim is to attract the attention of the audience for creating the publicity and promotion of the brand.
  3. Value-based Ambushing:
    It refers to a marketing technique where a company uses the same theme and value of the official sponsor company with a view to deceive people into believing that they are the same company, but in reality, they are not.
  4. Insurgent Ambushing:
    It refers to a marketing practice where a company uses its unique techniques for promotion but does not harm the goodwill of the official sponsor by successfully gets the limelight for their brand.
  5. Parallel Property Ambushing:
    It means when the company organizes an event on the same date when the bigger event is going to happen. It gives an advantage to the company as due to the bigger event they also tend to get the attention.

Case Studies
  • BMW v. AUDI
    The infamous billboard war between two German Automakers i.e. BMW and Audi began at SnataMonaica, California in2009. BMW hosted a rally with the slogan A BMW rally with two nearby service centers. What�s next, paramedics at a chess tournament? Audi saw this as an opportunity and purchased a billboard in Santa Monica for making an advertisement of their new Audi A4 with an intention to mock the slogan of BMW they wrote Chess? No thanks, I�d rather be driving After this Audi came with a new billboard and wrote Your Move BMW. In reciprocation BMW made a big move with a billboard directly across the street for advertising their BMW M3 with a slogan Checkmate In the end, Audi responded with a slogan on the billboard Your pawn is no match for our King, game over But the advertisement war returned in many forms later
  • Budweiser V. Bavaria
    In the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Budweiser was the official sponsor of the beer and has a major presence at the games. [5]Bavaria Beer Company a rival company used the technique of Ambush Marketing, in the match of Holland v Denmark there were 36 women who were wearing the same orange color dress having a logo of Bavaria. When the authority of FIFA noticed they were sent out of the game and 2 of them were arrested. FIFA believes in safeguarding the rights of their official sponsors from the foul play of their rival.
  • International Olympic Committee V. Paddy Power
    Paddy Power launched the advertisement with the slogan Official sponsor of the largest athletics event in London this year across the city of London which was the official venue of Olympic Games 2012. Apart from the bold claim it also made reference to London with a disclaimer London, France That is it was the Ambush marketing strategy adopted by Paddy Power. Paddy Power has only sponsored an egg-spoon race. The International Committee of Olympics took a look at the ads ad told Paddy Power to take down the advertisements. Paddy Power challenged the IOC�s order in the court and surprisingly they won against IOC.
  • IPOD v Rona
    In 2010 Apple�s Colorful Nano iPod was one of the greatest MP3 players in the market and has gained a lot of recognition. Apple launched the advertisement on the billboard next to Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal having a colorful combination in a rainbow-ribbon arrangement. Canadian Paint Rona saw this as an opportunity for promoting their paint and brand, they set up their billboard under Apple�s advertisement with an aim to promote their new recycling pain program with a slogan We Collect Leftover Paint. This is one of the greatest, unique and creative examples of ambush marketing.

In the era of globalization the importance of sports, cultural event, artistic work, etc. have been increased tremendously with that the role of sponsorship have also strengthened to gain promotions and consumer attention. This has led to the increasing in marketing strategies of Ambush marketing. Some people believe it to be positive and innovative while the other set believes it to be unethical and immoral, I belong to the latter set.

I believe the act of ambush marketing jeopardizes the rights of the official sponsor as they have spent a tremendous amount of money for getting a promotion and recognition for their brand. Ambush marketing is an easy way to get a promotion without investing any money but at the same time, it involves greater risk. In the end, it is definitely a personal choice of a company in adopting a marketing strategy.

  1. Sandler D &Shani D, Olympic Sponsorship vs ambush marketing: Who gets the gold? Journal of Advertising Research (1989
  2. T. Meenaghan. Point of view: Ambush marketing - Immoral or imaginative practice? Journal of Advertising Research (1994)
  3. Jason K Schmitz, Ambush Marketing: The off-field Competition at the Olympic Games, Vol. 3, Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property
  4. Kathyrn Park, Ambush Marketing: when sponsors cry foul, WIPO Magazine, World Intellectual Property Organization (2019)
  5. M. Payne, Ambush marketing: Immoral or imaginative practice. Paper presented at Sponsorship Europe �91 Conference, Barcelona, Spain (1991)

    Written By:

    1. Mr.Navin Kumar Jaggi and
    2. Ms.Bhavya Bhasin

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