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12 Awesome Ambush Marketing Examples

Ambush Marketing

Marketing is a primary means of getting the word around with respect to your goods and services. It has been sustained over time and has evolved over the years. The evolution of marketing has resulted in the birth of different marketing strategies. Although these marketing strategies are all channeled towards the same goals, they were developed to adapt and optimize a certain market condition. One of such is Ambush Marketing strategy.

Defining Ambush Marketing Strategies

What is Ambush Marketing? This is a form of marketing where a company takes advantage of the publicity provided by a major event to create awareness for its product without having to contribute or make any financial commitment to the sponsorship of the event. In return, they get some form of publicity and media coverage. As such, one company may have paid for exclusive sponsorship rights, and then another company takes advantage of that, pays nothing, even if they could afford it and advertise at the events.


This type of strategy exposes the target audience to a variety of options with respect to a particular product. Events such as the world cup, Olympic competition and grand prix competitions are some events that are target for ambush marketing campaigns. In plain terms, look at it this way. For a super bowl event, Pepsi paid to be an exclusive sponsor of the event while Coca-Cola did not. On the day of the event, Pepsi is advertising around the event venue while coke mounts some advert outside the venue. Coca-Cola will gain some attention from this event without paying anything for it. Some critics say this is illegal, but the fact is Pepsi, being an exclusive sponsor will have certain rights and privileges which Coca-Cola would not have access to.

Some basic examples of ambush marketing is the selling of musical merchandise right outside the venue of a musical concert with no permission from the promoters of the event or depending on an association with the concert to promote sales. The term Ambush Marketing was coined by Jerry Welsh, an expert in marketing. He developed this term back in 1980 while he worked with Global Marketing Efforts as a manager.

Different Forms of Ambush Marketing

Ambush Marketing comes in different forms. They can be broadly classified as:

1. Direct Ambushing
2. Indirect Ambushes
3. Incidental Ambushing

Direct Ambushing
When brands intentionally want to appear affiliated with an event for which it has no rights, directly attacking the rivals, it is referred to as direct ambush marketing. Under this type of marketing, we have predatory marketing, which is the direct attacking of the official sponsor in a bid to gain a market share and confuse the market in knowing who the official sponsor is. Coattail Ambush marketing, this is when a brand attempts to directly identify with an event through legitimate means other than becoming an official sponsor and property infringement which is an unauthorized use of a protected intellectual property.

Indirect Ambushing
For indirect ambushes, marketers are associated with an event but they are not as concerned with the plans of their rivals. Under this form of marketing, we have associative ambushes which are the use of terminology which suggests that they are the official sponsors of an event, distract ambushing which is the setting up of promotional adverts at the venue of the event without making reference to the event. Finally, values ambushing is the use of the central value or theme of an event to give the audience an impression of an association with the event.

Incidental Ambushing
Incidental ambushing comprises of unintentional ambushing and saturation ambushing. When the information regarding the customs or equipment used for an event is mentioned by the media, such is referred to as unintentional ambush marketing. Saturation ambushes are another form of ambush marketing under incidental ambushing. It is when a brand increases their product awareness when an event is holding without making reference to the event, avoiding any suggestion or impression.

Implications of Ambush Marketing

Although ambush marketing comes along with its inherent risks, it also has its potential benefits. In Dallas, during the super bowl 2012, city staffers were on the lookout for any sign of ambush marketing attempts before the commencement of the game. They had a strict order from NFL to put it to a stop. The contractors who were building the facility for the Olympic 2012 games were prohibited from discussing the project in public. In the event of them being suspected of doing so, the Olympic Delivery Authority had legal permission to search their offices and investigate the matter. In such cases where there are strict laws governing the events, there could be risks associated with this marketing tactics.

Benefits of Ambush Marketing

The benefits could be rewarding also as ambush marketers can gain a share of the market, impressing their brands in the minds of the audience. On the part of the audience, they are treated fairly because they are exposed to a variety of products. Competition becomes healthy and when that happens, the consumer would have a fair treatment as prices would be reduced.

12 Examples of Ambush Marketing

1. Beats By Dr. Dre
During the 2012 Olympic Games, many athletes wore head phones branded “Beats By Dr Dre”, whether these athletes were paid to wear these head phones, that is not known, the point is that the viewers saw the product during the event. This could lead to later sales.

2. Nike
Companies can take advantage of star athletes to ambush market their products. For example if a star like Michael Johnson would pose for a photograph with a Nike merchandise round his neck, revealing the logo, that would be an ambush marketing strategy in favor of Nike.

3. Apple
Apple pays for a bill board, displaying its product the iPod. Another company places its banner under the bill board in a way that seems both adverts are the same. This is a form of ambush marketing as the second company did not pay for that space.

4. South African Airline
Before the commencement of 2010 world cup, a South African Airline began a print campaign and promoted themselves as the “Unofficial National Carrier of the ‘You-Know-What.'”. FIFA, reprimanded them for it. The next month, they launched another advert and titled it “Not next year, not last year, but somewhere in between” and they featured various symbols. It referred to the South African Flag as a beach towel, removed the spikes form a soccer cleat and referred to the Vuvuzela as a gulf tee. FIFA objected to this however, the airline explained that they were not in violation of the protocols. The same airline started a campaign to give free seats to anyone named “Sepp Blatter”. This is the name of FIFA president. They found someone, put up an advert and ended the advert by saying, “it’s official, Sepp Blatter flies with us”

5. Fiat
Google Street views published images of Volkswagen’s Headquarters in Sweden. The problem was there was a Fiat 500 parked right in the Volkswagen drive way. Fiat noticed Google car updating streets and sent one of their known products along with it and strategically positioned it against a rival. Since it takes some years for data to be updated, it will be some time before consumers stop seeing this image.

6. Bavaria
For alcohol brands, companies can ambush soccer events by sending models in attractive dresses and appropriate color codes and logo to such events. This was the case in 2010 world cup during the match between Denmark and Holland, when 36 models wore branded clothes that promoted Dutch beer Bavaria.

7. Samsung
October 2011, Apple launches its iPhone 4S in Australia. Samsung, an established rival of Apple launched its Galaxy S II about the same time. However, Samsung immediately put up an improvised retail store close to that of Apple and sold its phone for AUS$2 instead of AUS$850 which is the official price. In the long run, Samsung had longer queues throughout the week as compared to Apple store.

8. Stella Artois
During the US Open, Stella Artois Placed adverts at the Long Island Rail Road station close to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. This made them look like the official beer partner of the game. As a matter of fact, Heineken was. For those attendees who took trains to the games, they sure would have come across at least 15 adverts that made it look like Stella Artois was sponsoring the game.

9. Nike
Nike is known for its ambush marketing techniques. In 1992, the official sponsor of the Olympic Dream team was Reebok but the Rebook logo on the track suit of players was covered up with the American flag, after which, Nike held a press conference with players from the team. In 2010, before the world cup which was sponsored by Adidas, Nike put up an interactive advert in Johannesburg at the City’s Life Center, the fourth tallest building in the city. Nike was not the official sponsor, however, it won.

10. BMW and Audi
In 2009, Auto manufacturers BMW and Audi were at war on bill boards, Audi set up a bill board at Santa Monica California with the impressions, “Your Move, BMW.” BMW responded and setup another bill board close to that of Audi with a picture of its M3 model with the impression “Checkmate”

11. Holden
Holden, an Australian Automaker developed a huge air ship with the name “Holden” on it and used it to ambush as many events as it could.

12. Timberwolves
In Minneapolis, Minnesota Twins, a baseball team and Minnesota Timberwolves, a basketball team plays right next to one another. The Timberwolves arena can be seen right over the right side of the Twins Stadium, Timberwolves then sold an advert space on that side of the building. The target was to get as much audience on both sides. However, Minnesota Twins then built a wall to cover up that side of the stadium.
Ambush marketing, if properly utilized is a great marketing strategy of getting great publicity at little or no cost. However, great care should be taken to ensure that there are no infringements of any laws.

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