How is Ambush Marketing Breathing Life in The Ad Game of Brands?

The Super Bowl is arguably advertising’s biggest forum. With a skyrocketing viewership, it is every marketer’s dream. Unfortunately, there are no free lunches in the world of marketing. For example, the ticket’s face value for a 30-second ad run was over $5 million in 2021. Moreover, these costs exclude production costs, additional executions in digital and social space, game-day monitoring, and other expenses. If you take a rough estimate, the cost of making a Super Bowl ad can be beyond $20 million.

Ambush Marketing
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The 2021 Sam Adams spoofs came as a shock when Anheuser-Busch backed out in advertising its iconic Budweiser brand during the Super Bowl for the first time since 1983. Seizing the opportunity to engage in ambush marketing, Sam Adams avoided forking out $5.5 million for a 30-second ad nationally during the game; instead, they aired the spot in NY and Boston media for just $700,000.

Ambush marketing involves riding on the fame of an important event or campaign without actually paying for or participating in the sponsorship. Vendors use this marketing tactic to get free promotion and compete with other brands paying for the sponsorship without dishing out big bucks themselves.

Breaking Down Ambush Marketing

In ambush marketing, a company or product rides on the publicity of major events without contributing to the financing of the event. Let’s understand with an example.

Have you ever wondered when you’re watching your favourite team play, and every time the camera zooms to see the coach’s reaction, there’s always a group of people wearing the same t-shirts, sitting behind the bench? This group is promoting a brand that hasn’t officially sponsored the game.

Breaking Down Ambush Marketing
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Ambush marketing is used to “sail over the waves” of prominence and fame of a headlining event, syncing your promotional activities around it, without paying fees to the organizer to become an “official” sponsor in a certain product category.

What Are the Types of Ambush Marketing?

This marketing technique can be classified into two major forms further divided into different categories:

Direct Ambush Marketing

Under direct ambush marketing, advertisers promote their brand as a part of an event, weakening the brand awareness of official sponsors and their respective campaigns. Direct marketing is major of four types:

Predatory Ambushing

Under predatory ambushing, a predator brand intentionally poaches a competitor’s advertising efforts to gain market share and confuse the audience.

In 1997, Pepsi was the official sponsor of the Asia Cup (Cricket). Still, Coca-Cola captured the television sponsorship rights, leaving the audience in a dilemma with who the original sponsor was.

Coattail Ambushing

Under Coattail ambushing marketing strategy, a brand tries to associate with an event by using a link instead of becoming an official sponsor. A notorious example of coattail ambushing is when in 2016, Puma tried to associate itself with the Rio Olympics by sponsoring the most celebrated athlete Usain Bolt.

Self Ambushing

Under self ambushing, the event’s official sponsor performs activities that are past the terms of the sponsorship contract. For example, in the 2008 UEFA European Championship, Carlsberg, the event’s official sponsor, offered goodies with the Carlsberg logo at the event.

Under self ambushing agreement, Carlsberg advertisement infringed the other company’s rights that permitted distribution of freebies to the audience at the tournament.

Trademark Infringement

Trademark infringement is when a brand utilizes properties, logos, symbols, taglines to raise the market share. However, its competitor has generated those properties, taking many communication efforts. Let’s understand with an example. Red Cross as one global signage represents hospitals and other medical services. Nonetheless, it is a property infringement of the international organization of the Red Cross.

Indirect Ambush Marketing

It uses imagery related to an event in advertising campaigns. This is to invoke an intellectual connection with a brand without any mentions. Here, the company’s approach isn’t aggressive like direct ambush marketing, as the company’s intention isn’t to grab the spotlight but gain some exposure or marketing efforts of other brands.

Associative Ambushing

Under associative ambush marketing, unique slogans or images are shielded by intellectual property laws and create an illusion that the company has links to a sporting event or property.

Distractive Ambushing

Distractive ambushing distracts the audience by positioning a promotional undertaking like setting up stalls at or near an event without specific reference to the event.

Parallel Property Ambushing

Parallel property ambushing is where one company finances an event identical to other events that their competitor’s finance. Here the company aims to redirect customers’ attention from the preceding event and capitalize on the main event’s goodwill.

Insurgent Ambushing

Insurgent ambush marketing executes an aggressive promotional campaign like a flash mob at an event to amplify your brand awareness and deflect the official sponsor’s attention or the event itself.

Why Should you Use Ambush Marketing in Your 2022 Marketing Campaign?

Ambush Marketing in your 2022 marketing
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Today most ambush campaigns have a single goal- to connect their brand with the popularity of a determined event without signing a sponsorship agreement. However, ambush marketing offers a rather different approach to developing a marketing campaign whilst offering full creative freedom and flexibility.

Brands integrate different visual forms and wordplay in response to advertising campaigns framed by official sponsors at an event. With ambush marketing, companies often integrate methods that go beyond the scope of a brand’s established guidelines.

Brands use ambush marketing in myriad ways, from PPC advertising to vast billboards on the most crowded city’s streets. Now that you understand some benefits of what your brand can yield after implementing ambush marketing, it’s time to find out whether it’s within the legal framework or not.

With ambush marketing, you can:

Frame Cost-effective and Clever Marketing Strategies

Ambush-styled marketing is originally a scheme attacking others by responding or leveraging their current campaigns to promote the brand. Therefore, your ambush marketing strategy needs to be creative and “out of the box” to stand out from competitors.

The ambush marketing campaigns bring laughter and open discussion on social media channels, making this form of marketing memorable.

Make Off-Script Campaigns

While marketing and campaigns, marketers always have to be concerned about the synchronization of advertisement. Whether you’re planning to expand digital marketing or offline advertising, cohesion in the display is important.

However, brands get creative and off-script independence when it comes to ambushing campaigns. Off-script allows marketers to be different from the usual tone, text or style. In addition, brands can use tools or techniques beyond the scope of an organization’s existing advertising guidelines.

Change Consumer Perceptions

Ambush marketing can change consumer conception and upgrade brand credibility if they do well. Even when the brand lacks popularity among consumers before, a good ambush marketing campaign can still be well-known, and marketing campaigns can still generate and exhibit new brand values.

What Are Some Pitfalls of Ambush Marketing?

If you’re planning to use ambush marketing in your marketing strategies, here are some of the disadvantages that you should consider.

Ambush Marketing is Costly

Ambush marketing is perhaps the main downside of marketing, making many brands hesitate to launch an ambush-style advertising strategy. It is undeniable that ambush offers chances to increase the market share and the total profit of a brand, but there are no free lunches in the world. Ambush marketing comes with hefty prices.

Ambush Marketing ROI Calculation is Difficult

Another pitfall of ambush marketing is difficulty in calculating the ROI. When calculating the return on investment in marketing campaigns, you can’t use the same formula as typical campaigns, which means assigning multiple values to brand awareness or positive consumer sentiment.

Monitor mainstream and social media for links, mentions or other engagement metrics; you can gauge the total reception of an ambush campaign.

Time and Space in Ambush Marketing

Ambush marketing is more than launching a cheeky marketing campaign but choosing a suitable time and Space. Besides potential costs involved, ambush-style advertising plans require quick reaction coordinated planning. For example, when an ambush marketing campaign is launched, and the first result is worth expecting, the success and effect of the campaign rely completely on the neighbourhood advertisements.

Some Notable Examples of Ambush Marketing

Samsung Stole the Apple Spotlight

In October 2011, Samsung launched Galaxy S II simultaneously as Apple launched iPhone 4S.

Samsung stole the Apple spotlight

Whenever Apple brings out new products, customers line up outside its store. This time, Samsung stole the spotlight from its competitor by setting up a pop-up store near Apple’s flagship Sydney site.

Samsung created a huge difference in price while selling Galaxy S II at AUS$2 instead of the near AUS$850 full retail price. Naturally, customers look for lower prices, so the pop-up store of Samsung attracted many customers despite only opening for three days, resulting in a longer run throughout the week than Apple’s store.

Audi Vs BMW Street Sight in Santa Monica

The famous street fight between two giants in the automobile manufacturing industry is Audi and BMW. Such an interesting billboard war occurred in Santa Monica and California.

Audi Vs BMW street fight in Santa Monica

In 2009, the war started right after BMW held a tournament in Wisconsin and promoted an advertising campaign with a phrase promoting the tournament via an advertising campaign with a slogan meaning this tournament would be like a chess game.

Audi decided to set up a billboard for its A4 with the words “Chess? No thanks, I’d rather be driving” to compete with BMW’s slogan. However, the fight ended when BMW shared, “Your pawn is a match for our king”.

While BMW is surely the winner thanks to its large number of advertising billboards, Audi claims its billboard was up for almost a year before BMW.

Holden Big Red Blimp

Australian automaker Holden had its Big Red airship flown to promote its product and ambush the official sponsor of the events. Holden was quickly criticized for using the blimp.

Holden Big Red blimp

One year after that, with more than 400 flights, Queensland passed a law specifically banning the BIg Red blimp from different events in the region, which Holden was not officially a part of.

2006 FIFA World Cup

In the 2006 World Cup, Nike created a successful ambush marketing campaign; they launched a social networking website for the world’s soccer fans with the slogan “Joga Bonito” campaign.

2006 FIFA World Cup

Nike claimed their website and sponsorship of the Brazilian soccer team combined with the same exposure as Adidas. They didn’t bear the hefty price that Adidas had to as an event’s official sponsor.

Wrapping Up

Ambush marketing methods bring about advantages, but the cost involved can also go out of estimated budgets for many brands. Ambush marketing is creative and legal, and if you apply it perfectly, it can pay you off well. However, if the idea lies outside the legal framework and the payoff is uncertain, it’s better to dodge the bullet.


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Rahul Vij

Co-founded WebSpero solutions about a decade ago. Having worked in web development- I realized the dream of transforming ideas sketched out on paper into fully functioning websites. Seeing how that affected the customers’ generation of leads and conversions, I wanted to delve deeper into the sphere of digital marketing. At Webspero Solutions, handling operations and heading the entire Digital Marketing Field – SEO, PPC, and Content are my core domains. And although we as a team have faced many challenges, we have come far learning along and excelling in this field and making a remarkable online reputation for our work. Having worked in building websites and understanding that sites are bare structures without quality content, the main focus was to branch into optimizing each website for search engines. Investing in original, quality content creation is essential to SEO success in the current search climate. Succeeding in this arena ensures the benefits of producing visitor-friendly content. Directing all our teams to zoom in on these factors has been a role that I have thoroughly enjoyed playing throughout these years. linkedin