The Power Of Ambush Marketing

Ambush Marketing can be defined as ‘a business advertising at a big public event without paying the sponsorship fees’. London 2012 is the most recent example.

It was fascinating learning of how a few huge brands (Nike, Dr Dre Beats, Paddy Power), who had no official affiliation with the Olympic games, found imaginative ways of getting past the barriers and advertising their products:

Firstly, a few of the athletes during the games wore a Nike green neon shoe. This already stood out, but was made even more visible when runners, the likes of Mo Farah, won Gold in such infatic style. The whole world got a glimpse of this Nike product.  ADIDAS were the official sponsors in this category, but Nike managed to get their product out-there with minimum cost. Secondly, Dr Dre Beats headphones were worn by many of the swimmers just before they were about to race. Panasonic were the official audio sponsors of the games, but the Beats brand claimed that they were not trying to promote their products, just that people liked and wanted to use their headphones. They also coloured their headphones to the colours of the nations competing. This again was a very clever way of marketing their products without paying the sponsorship fees and is likely to lead to an increase in sales. Lastly, Paddy Power; Nicolas Bendtner (Norwegian Footballer) was wearing underwear that had ‘Paddy Power’ written across the top of it and during a game he scored a goal, lifted up his shirt and revealed the brand. He was fined 80,000 euros for this, but it helped the Paddy Power brand reach a global market, which gave the brand greater awareness, enhancing its potential.

These are only three short examples of what happened at London 2012, but it just shows the opportunity these world events can offer huge brands that miss out on being a sponsor, or who do not want to pay the fees. The knock-on effects are mainly positive. They are within their rights to carry out these acts as long as it does not inflict on the sponsorship rights, which in the case of London 2012, these brands did not. So, they get their brand worldwide awareness at far less cost and even better – the public may think that they are officially a part of the games but are actually not, which is the beauty of Ambush Marketing.

Another excellent example is where Southern Electric hoisted a banner on a tower outside the Oval (Cricket Ground) during the last test of the Ashes in 2005. Npower were the official sponsors of the Ashes but Southern Electric were not technically infringing their rights. Ultimately, they paid a very small fee to ‘crash the party’ for Npower, and reach a wide audience at a very low cost.

At London 2012, there were many measures put in place to stop Ambush Marketing occurring. For example, 270 trained trading standards officers were dotted around the Olympic park to try and restrict any Ambush Marketing.  Another example; even the smallest of cafe’s based in London that had been named ‘Olympic’  for many years, had to change their name to ‘lympic’ as it broke the rules. There were many rules set down, but the clever part is how the big brands managed to bypass these rules.

Ambush Marketing cannot fit into a brands marketing communications all of the time due to the rarity of large events, but it is a very powerful tool when the opportunity arises. The big drawback of Ambush Marketing arises when a brand spends more than the sponsor on advertising to compete.