What is Ambush Marketing?
Perhaps you’re wondering what could be the “definition of ambush marketing,” it also goes by the name of hijacking, predatory ambushing or coat-tail marketing.
Ambush marketing is the process of hijacking the advertising campaign of some other marketers to compete and get more exposure to your product or service.
Jerry Welsh, an American strategist, is the first person who used the term ‘‘ambush marketing’’ in the 1980s when he was working for the American Express. In simple words, you take advantage of some big event by attaching yourself with it in disguise, when you’re not even part of it.
Feature of Ambush Marketing
Some of the features of ambush marketing are given below;
Creative and Intelligent
You have to be very creative and intelligent to use the campaign of some other advertiser to your advantage. It may seem very simple and easy, but it requires a lot of planning to execute it perfectly. Timing matters a lot in ambush marketing.
Both Legal and Illegal
As they say ‘‘it is only illegal when you’re caught.’’ Undoubtedly, it requires a lot of risk, but it’s worth trying when you’re at war with your marketing competitors. It is wrong when you talk about morality and ethics, then so does burning fossil fuels is wrong. But you do these things anyway, there’s a limit to everything. If you stay in the limit, it’s good, otherwise, not.
Ambush marketing involves a lot of risks because you’re utilizing someone else’s circumstances. Where you’re not in control of your circumstances; things can go wrong at any time and you have to face unexpected outcomes.
Types of Ambush Marketing
Ambush marketing has two major types, direct and indirect. Each type is then further subdivided into other categories. We’ll discuss them one by one.
Direct Ambush Marketing
Direct ambush marketing begins when a company becomes aggressive with its marketing approaching and starts attaching itself openly when it doesn’t even have legal rights like an official sponsor.
In the Olympic games of 1996, Nike installed an enormous billboard just outside the stadium in the landscape of Atlanta. Fans and audience at the stadium were thinking that Nike was the sponsor of the Olympic Games, but it was not.
There’re different types of direct ambush marketing which are as follows;
When a company directly and openly attacks its competitor’s company, athletes, brands and sponsors; while the fans and people remain confused over which company has the legal sponsorship the whole time.
In the winter games of 1994, two financial credit card companies; Visa and American Express came face to face. Visa card has the legal and official sponsorship rights. American Express began its marketing campaign which made Visa Card furious; ‘‘if you’re traveling to Spain, Italy or Norway, you’ll need a passport. But you don’t need a Visa.’’
When a person or company gains more exposure than the legal sponsorship holding person or a company, it is usually performed by sponsoring that individual.
In the Atlanta Olympic Games, Reebok was the official sponsors of the event. But its competitors made the news headline in the next. When Lindford Christie, an athlete, was wearing glasses with the logo and monogram of PUMA brand in the press conference; this news got more coverage, than the legal and official sponsor itself.
When a trademark company or a property intentionally exploits and misuses the content to crash the market, and create confusion among the fans and audience.
During the London Olympic Games, the management banned and started imposing fines on local businesses in the city of London, who were using the words like gold, summer, and bronze in their marketing campaign. It was because the management was concerned that such content can shift the focus of people.
A sponsor usually signs multiple sponsorship agreements with different companies to perform certain tasks. Self ambushing happens when one company breaks sponsorship agreement by doing things that other companies and parties were supposed to do.
In the European Championships UEFA 2008, Carlsberg was the official sponsor of the tournament, so does the other companies. However, it started distributing headbands and t-shirts with the logo of the Carlsberg among the fans. But that wasn’t the part of the Carlsberg sponsorship agreement. It was the job of some other company, that’s how Carlsberg violated the sponsorship agreement.
Indirect Ambush Marketing
Indirect ambush marketing means when a company attaches itself indirectly to some other parent advertising campaign. The purpose of such indirect attachment is to get more exposure for its brand; it could use images, symbols, or photos to mislead people.
The difference between both of these approaches is that indirect is not aggressive like direct ambush marketing, and it also doesn’t want to grab the main spotlight. It just wants to work indirectly, without stealing the show and gain more exposure for its brand.
Here are the following types of indirect ambush marketing;
When a company starts associating and attaching itself indirectly with the main parent advertiser campaign, it makes people into believing that they’re a part of it. They receive more exposure by staying in the disguise.
When a company creates distraction among the public and confuses people about the source of the campaign. They work openly and indirectly, but they trick people into believing that they’re the main sponsor.
Such companies use the main theme and values of the sponsorship holding company, they trick people into believing that they’re the same company, but they’re not.
When companies and individuals surprise the public with their unique promotional techniques, their indirect presence doesn’t hurt the reputation of the main brand. But they get a lot of attention for their brand in return.
Parallel Property Ambushing
Parallel property ambushing means when a company launches and schedules the date of its event side by side with the date of some bigger event. Parallel scheduling of events gives a lower brand a lot of coverage because of the main brand.
Examples of Ambush Marketing
Audi vs BMW
The rivalry between two luxury vehicle companies also goes by the name of ‘‘war of billboards.’’ It all began when Audi launched its A4 car with the billboard of quoting a phrase ‘‘your move, BMW.’’ BMW launched its 3 series car, and installed its billboard just besides Audi’s poster with the phrase ‘‘checkmate.’’
Audi launched another model R8 and installed the billboard with the phrase ‘‘your pawn is no match for our king.’’ BMW replied it with electric i8 and placed a billboard phrasing ‘‘touché?’’ Audi came up with the idea of a giant balloon with the sticker of the F1 car on it by phrasing ‘‘game over.’’
Pepsi Vs Coca Cola
Cricket World Cup of 1996, rumors say that Coca Cola paid a huge sum of money to the ICC and became the official and legal sponsor of the World Cup. Pepsi didn’t sit back and accepted the defeat. However, Pepsi relit the extinguished fire of cola war and launched a series of TV ads campaign with the dialogue of ‘‘nothing official about it.’’ Coca Cola, you remain official, but everyone wants Pepsi.
Coca Cola remained the official and legal brand of the world cup, but Pepsi got more public attention.
Rona Collects Apple’s Leftover Paint
The colorful iPod Nano of the Apple Company was very famous among users back in 2010. However, the company started its marketing campaign with a different poster in Montreal, Canada. The poster was comprised of a series of colorful Nano iPod, showing the colors of the rainbow.
Rona, a Canadian paint company, came up with the unique idea of their painting poster, a series of buckets collecting leftover rainbows colorful paint from the iPod poster. Rona’s poster was phrasing ‘we collect leftover paint.’
Rona’s ambush marketing plan was successful and it gathered a lot of attention, and it has become a great example of ambush marketing in recent history.
Advantages of Ambush Marketing
Here are some advantages of ambush marketing, which are as follows;
Ambush marketing Increases Brand Awareness. Take the example of Rona, the paint company, it was a small company and very few people knew about it. But when it started attaching itself indirectly with the multinational brand, then its brand awareness was a huge success.
Ambush Marketing is a Clever Technique. You have to be very clever if you want to launch a successful ambush marketing plan. The example and ideas we have discussed, they may seem very simple. But there was great planning to launch such billboard.
Disadvantages of Ambush Marketing
Ambush marketing doesn’t go without flaws; here are its disadvantages;
Unhealthy Competitive Environment. Some critics say that it creates an environment of unhealthy competition. There should be a room of success for everyone; people and businesses should be in the race of defeating and using one another.
ROI of Ambush Marketing is Difficult to Calculate. There are just parameters to calculate the success of your ambush marketing plan; it’s the risk which the businesses must take. You’ll never find out how many people have been converted into buying your product.
It can be an Expensive Activity. Sometimes you have to invest a lot of resources like distributing t-shirt and headbands for free. But you can’t be sure about the return of investment, because it’s just an opportunity. It can pay off a lot or none, you can’t be sure.
If the idea of ambush marketing you have is creative and legal, if you apply it perfectly, it would pay you off well. Then you should take the risk. But if the idea you want to try is illegal, pay off is uncertain. Then it’s better not to try such ideas.