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It’s an ambush

Reflecting on recent events, I thought that I would pause to think about some of the more memorable ambushes in the sphere of marketing tactics (“ambush marketing”).  A definition is: “Ambush marketing is an emotionally charged phrase that refers to the practice of appearing to align a brand with an event for which that brand has not paid for the right to be a sponsor.”

The inspiration for this post was after Wimbledon’s Champion, Serena Williams, was reprimanded once again for breaching sponsorship rules at the Women’s Singles final by taking her Gatorade bottle into the post-match press conference.  Naturally, she represents Gatorade sports-drinks product, but everyone knows this tennis event is the exclusive territory for Robinsons drinks through its sponsorship agreement.

Well here are some other instances of ambush marketing that I can recall:

In 2010, a Dutch beers promotional activity was seen as a blatant infringement, during the Football World Cup in South Africa.  36 ladies from Holland were held after breaking the law and sponsorship protocol at this tournament, all after scantily clad, blonde girls, in orange miniskirts caught the cameramen’s attention and thus executed this ambush.  How else would we know of Bavaria Beer?  Unfortunately, an ITV pundit lost his job in connection when his tickets were traced to this orange ‘wave’. Budweiser was the aggrieved party in this instance.

In 2009, Six Nations Rugby campaign, adverts for Fuller’s beer included a picture of rugby post and the strapline, “Support English Rugby”.  The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had to get involved given that the Rugby Football Union (RFU) objected as the brewery had not actually paid for the privilege of any association.

In 2008, Adidas had spent circa $200 Million to become the official sportswear brand at the Beijing Olympic Games.  Little did they know an indigenous ‘hero’ would undermine their plans.  The Chinese sportswear brand Li Ning (created by a former gymnast) had its’ moment of fame as he was chosen to light the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony. Li Ning was China’s most decorated Olympian and a National hero. This media exposure effectively gave his Company a free ten-minute advert across China and the World. After the introduction of the gymnast by acrobatic wires to the main stadium, Li Ning’s Hong Kong-listed shares jumped 3.4%.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) in the run up to London Olympics 2012 has said: “Those hoping to bask in London’s moment in the sun may be surprised at how restrictive the provisions of the Olympics Act are”. This being legislation introduced for purposes of protection.

The organisers of the 2012 Olympics have already taken the precaution of booking almost all the City’s billboard space during the games.  Also, any infringement using Olympic identity can result in a fine and penalty of £20,000.  But watch this space, the creative industry would see any fine as ‘small fry’ given the right exposure for an adventurous brand!

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