Ambush marketing

Ambush marketing is a form of marketing that involves using a high-profile event to gain visibility. Similar to ambient marketing, it uses unconventional tactics to create a buzz and build brand awareness.

We're not talking about brands becoming sponsors or partners for sporting or cultural events here, but about brands parasitizing such events.

Ambush marketing can be considered wild marketing, especially because of its risky aspect, sometimes bordering on illegal.

In concrete terms, ambush marketing is when a brand appears near or during an event without having paid for the right to advertise.

One of the most common and buzz-creating forms of ambush marketing is streaking, when somebody runs naked across a sports field with a sign or body tattoo bearing the effigy of a brand.

Ambush marketing can also take the form of billboards set up close to the event, with a visual that reflects the event's theme, without having to pay for official sponsorship.

One particularly famous example of ambush marketing is Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” campaign during the 2012 London Olympics. Because the company wasn’t an official sponsor of the Olympic Games, it had to find a creative way to work around the very strict restrictions concerning advertising related to the event. The final result was Nike creating a powerful ad featuring athletes in other London cities across the world, with the successful campaign running in 25 countries and the showcase coinciding with the Games’ opening ceremony.

Brands such as burger giants McDonald's and Burger King, Mercedes and Audi, Apple, and sports equipment manufacturers are also used to this type of advertising campaign.

Ambush marketing is therefore a form of marketing that flirts with the limits of legality but has many advantages:

  • quick visibility gains,
  • a creative approach that appeals to consumers,
  • lower costs than official broadcasting at these events, and
  • a humorous response to competitors' advertising campaigns.

To run an effective ambush marketing campaign, however, it’s important to avoid certain pitfalls, such as stealing a competitor's logo/graphics or violating the rights of actual event sponsors.

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