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Ambush marketing

Ambush marketing

Unlike most world cup teams, Bavaria couldn’t lose. Kipp takes a look at the daring Dutch marketing ploy – ethically dubious, or an effective business short cut?

June 20, 2010 11:56 by

Ambush marketing is now a hot topic. The Bavaria incident should give you an idea of what it is – a marketing campaign taking place around a certain event, but not paying for official involvement. It’s a type of marketing that has been going for years, though perhaps the phrase was only recently coined.

In 1984, for instance, Kodak cunningly sponsored both the US track team and the broadcasts of the Olympic Games. This was despite Fuljifilm being the event’s official sponsor.

In 1996, sprinter Linford Christie wore contact lenses embossed with the Puma logo before the 100 meters final of the Atlanta Olympics. Reebok was the official sponsor of the games.

The 2006 FIFA World Cup saw Bavaria’s first brush with football’s governing body. Netherlands fans were made to remove lederhosen featuring Bavaria’s logo.

And Bavaria wasn’t the only company in trouble at this year’s event. A South African budget airline retreated from its planned ad after a FIFA complaint. intended to refer to itself as the “Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What.”

Countries are increasingly moving to make ambush marketing of the type apparently executed by Bavaria illegal. Why? Well, a large chunk of the income of an organization like FIFA comes from official sponsorship. For that reasons, when governing associations come to award events they will favor countries that move to protect its sponsors. So if England wants to host the World Cup in 2018, it needs to be seen to act against ambushing.

There are also ethical questions over ambush marketing – is it acceptable to effectively hi-jack an event that another company has paid a great deal of cash to sponsor? Or is it only fair, seeing as the big companies are merely using financial clout to exclude competition? The danger for organizations like FIFA is where the end-game of this trend will be. Official sponsorship could die out, as marketers realize that if they are smart, they can do just as well without it. Even if they find themselves breaking the law, the punishment is most likely to be a fine; the odds are that these fines will remain far cheaper than the cost of official sponsorship. This could be bad news for the governing bodies, who could lose out on significant income.

Whatever the long term developments, the bottom line is that at the moment ambush marketing, done right, can be a highly effective business tool – especially for a small company out to make its mark. The Bavaria incident is proof of that.

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1 Comment

  1. Werbi on September 24, 2010 10:31 am

    FIFA works all the time at FIFA “Rights Protection Programme” and plans more controlle for Euro 2012, but the point ist, ambush is legal.


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