Ambush Marketing: Does Your Company Have the Guts?

With Super Bowl 50 just around the corner, we’re constantly reminded of other exciting sporting events: World Championships, Olympic Games, past Super Bowls, and everything in between. In each of these games there can only be one winner. But this is also the case when companies launch marketing campaigns during these sporting events.

According to Statista, last year’s Super Bowl enjoyed a record-breaking 114.4 million viewers — so its no wonder big name brands are vying for air time. However, the dark horse opponent to any big marketing campaign is a company planning on using a tactic called ambush marketing.

What is ambush marketing?

Ambush marketing is one of many up and coming PR trends during which a business subtly competes for exposure. Originally coined by Jerry Welsh while working for American Express back in the 1980’s, the lightning fast marketing tactic is alive and well today.

Most ambush marketing strategies are undertaken by companies who are direct competitors with a sporting event’s official sponsor companies. For example, back in the 1996 Olympics the hype wasn’t about Reebok, the official sponsor of the Games that year, but instead on Michael Johnson’s gold-colored Nike shoes. Other big name brands have also been successful in trolling their competitors in years past.

Ambush marketing techniques

Companies use this tactic in order to avoid paying large amounts of money to become an official sponsor of an event. There are two different methods. The direct approach to ambush marketing involves advertisers promoting their product or service as being associated with a particular event.

The indirect approach to ambush marketing involves the use of subtle imagery to try and associate a brand with an event or competitor that may not be otherwise related to the industry. For example, if Apple is sponsoring the US Open, Swarovski may pay Serena Williams to use her iPhone during a halftime interview with the word “Swarovski” (using the company’s famous crystals) written on the back.

How this can help your PR

One of the ways to get away with using this marketing strategy is by taking a more humorous, clever approach. Sports associations and other committees have been increasingly taking steps to control this type of tactic, but there are those who still manage to get away with a great ambush campaign and come out on top — and reap the benefits.

So once Super Bowl 50 rolls around next month, sit back, relax, and try to pick out which advertising campaigns are really coming out on top.

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