Monday, February 21, 2011

Ambush Marketing

In the last decade we have witnessed a great number of events, festivals and social gatherings that have had a worldwide impact: the Olympic Games for example or international business conferences are now talked about on television, radio, newspapers or the internet everywhere.

Marketers have been using these events to promote their brand or products, by sponsoring them or advertising around them. We are used to these practices at such an extent that people no longer pay much attention to them and we sometimes wonder if the millions spent by the biggest companies are well invested or not.
This is why small companies all over the globe are competing with each other to come up with cheaper and more interesting ways to catch the consumer’s eye in a world where publicity and advertising is omnipresent. And it is in this environment of hard and ruthless competition that “ambush marketing” is born.

The term, coined by Jerry Welsh (a famous marketing strategist), refers to the act of ambushing customers in an event presumably organised by a different company. Very often the ambushing company has not paid for the event and is not taking part in the different marketing possibilities offered during the event. The marketing ambush will most often take the form of a mini-event inside the bigger venue and will have as main goal to surprise the people involved in the original venue. This is often seen as unfair competition by those who have paid for the event or for the advertising space offered during the event because they feel cheated out of the media attention they were hopping for.

The company using ambush marketing therefore has a lot to win out of this strategy: very often the uniqueness and thought put into the ambush will create a buzz and will be talked about, commented and criticised by a very large number of people, increasing the company’s presence with a very small initial financial investment from the company. Indeed, most of the time, the money spend is ridiculously insignificant when compared to the amounts spend by bigger companies in advertising campaigns.
But if these smaller companies have a lot to win out of ambush marketing, they can also loose a lot. Indeed, ambush marketing will often require companies to do something outside the box and therefore often illegal (could simply be against the rules set by the people organising the event in the first place). In the last few years there have been more and more rules protecting investors from ambush marketing set up around events, and, as a natural consequence, more and more legal procedures started against companies using these methods. For example, on the 26th of October 2010, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) sent out a memo imposing restrictions on players endorsing products that are in direct conflict with World Cup sponsors.

By J.Berry 
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