Ambush Marketing – Most Contemporary Innovative Strategy

Can any event match the huge market offered by FIFA for sponsorships! This FIFA 2010 was no different but this time something very unique happened in the field of advertising and marketing campaigns. Before beginning let me ask you a question that who were the title sponsors of FIFA 2010. If you answer Nike and Pepsi then you are tricked by a concept called Ambush Marketing, a marketing concept which is prevalently used during sports events like World Cup, Olympics or to target a rival over its new strategy, especially the tagline.
What exactly is Ambush Marketing?
The term Ambush Marketing is coined by marketing guru Jerry Walsh. Ambush Marketing is such a situation where a company or brand spends billions of dollars to become the title sponsor of a major event and another rival company or brand tries to take advantage of this by cleverly connecting with the event without paying any sponsorship fee. More important is that when a company gets an exclusive right to that event then generally no rival companies enter the event directly. But through this type of marketing, the ambusher (we will call the company which seeks for ambush marketing) creates campaigns and advertisements through which it tries to confuse the customer by showing its own affiliation to the event. Ambush marketing is effective as it attracts consumers at the disbursal of the rivals, undermining an event’s integrity and most importantly its ability to attract future sponsors.
What does it mean when you see such kind of marketing strategy? It means that regardless of controversial the strategy may be whenever a company finds some opportunity or a potentially lethal marketing technique it won’t stop from employing it even if it may get short term benefits. Most of the time the ambusher doesn’t have a fixed goal or strategy on how to approach the case but they aim mainly on how to win over their competitors’ campaign. For example, if you approach a convention sponsored by your competitor and you distribute freebies like T-shirts or caps to the audience. The audience would not only love to take the free stuff but also would wear them. In this way an entry would be made by you to the event. Imagine a summit organized by Google and you have 100 people wearing Yahoo T-shirts or outside an Airtel event you distribute free Sims of Vodafone to a select few. In this highly competitive world companies would resort to any idea or techniques to capture the attention of the consumer. 
FIFA 2010 – A mecca for Ambusher
It is no surprise that the ambushers are best prepared when stakes are the highest. And the stakes are never higher than the mega events like FIFA World Cup. This 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa saw many marketing events related to ambush marketing. Many biggies like Nike and Pepsi came to the arena with Adidas and Coca-Cola, the main rivals respectively as the event sponsors.
Nike came up with an advertisement campaign with featured players in their National Team jersey and with Nike logo on nine of the participating teams just three less than Adidas. Moreover the campaign had posters and videos which showed the Nike as the main sponsor of FIFA but in reality it was all ambush marketing. The campaign was taken to the internet media through social networking forums and video sharing websites. The “Write Your Headline – Write The Future” campaign on Facebook and Twitter and the best submission would be put on electric façade of the Life Centre building in Johannesburg.The star-studded advertisement featuring Rooney, Drogba and Ronaldinho made the most visited and liked video on YouTube. These strategies made Nike a bigger and more recognizable brand than any of the official sponsors. From the data shown below it is easily seen that Nike has achieved a massive share without actually spending much.
Bavaria beer, a Dutch company was seen involved in clear Ambush marketing when they hired 36 beautiful women to wear orange outfits during a Holland and Denmark match. The colour of the outfits brought awareness to the brand and most Dutch fans came to know about the stunt done by the beer company. Others would have thought that the ladies were just a group clad with orange outfits. But the company got the required attention when FIFA considered the official partner Budweiser’s plea against this type of marketing. What FIFA authorities did was they ejected the women from the ground and this news was sprayed all across newspapers and electronic media. This was a brilliant marketing strategy for the company, and they had all planned that the ousting of the women would capture media’s attention.
Ambush Marketing – An Indian Perspective
Back in India there has been recent ambush attacks by age old rivals HUL and Procter & Gamble. P&G came up with a teaser campaign saying “A mystery shampoo. Eighty per cent women say it is better than anything else.” Before the launch of the new Pantene brand HUL came up with a new set of campaigns saying ““There is no mystery. Dove is the No. 1 shampoo.” This Dove-Pantene duel was classic ambush marketing. Another very innovative event took place between three airline companies viz. Jet Lite, Kingfisher and Go Air over the tagline of Jet Lite. Jet Lite started a campaign with “We have changed” which was followed by Kingfisher’s campaign as “We made them change”.To outdo these companies Go Air came up with “We have not changed. We are still the smartest way to fly”.
Types of Ambush Marketing
Is Ambush Marketing Ethical ?
There are no strict laws in such cases for ambush marketing. Unlike piracy or counterfeiting, ambush marketing cases are rarely actionable, especially if the ambushers know what they are doing.
To be present on the working end of an ambush marketing campaign, the question is one of ethics. Is ambush marketing an ethical business practice? The ambush marketing cases which come to mind are those big brands with massive resources, such as Nike and Adidas or Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Between such equal players, ambush marketing is deemed as a last technique to use when no other forms of competition or strategy are available.
However, for some firms, ambush marketing is the only way to compete. In other words, does Goliath have an unfair competition claim against David? It’s for the readers to decide is it an unfair or a fair practice.

[The article has been contributed by Somjeet Behera. He is currently a Post Graduate Student at IIM-Shillong and pursuing his general management. He holds a B.Tech from KIIT, Bhubaneshwar in Electronics and Communications and before joining IIM Shillong he has worked in TCS and an education startup. He is a member of Student Council and Entrepreneurship cell of IIM Shillong. He has immense passion towards the field of Marketing, Technology and Entrepreneurship and has been researching on varied areas in these fields.  ]

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