Ambush Marketing Hits the World Cup
By Tom Ryan
On Tuesday, a group of 36 attractive Dutch women wearing skimpy
orange dresses were ejected from a World Cup match in South Africa in an apparent
case of "ambush
marketing." The women had allegedly gathered in a show of support for Dutch
brewer Bavaria, representing a violation of FIFA’s agreement with Budweiser,
the event’s official beer sponsor.
Ambush marketing is when a company not sponsoring
an event like the World Cup or the Olympics runs a campaign that links the
advertiser to that event in the consumer’s mind.
But Bavaria is not ambushing
alone. Nielsen studied English-language World Cup related messages
on blogs, message boards, groups, videos and image sites, including Flickr,
YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Nike was mentioned
in 30.2 percent of the messages from May 7 to June 6, making it the most talked
about company tracked. Adidas AG, the official sporting
goods sponsor, was a far second at 14.4 percent. Much of Nike’s buzz
activity was said to be driven by its global "Write
the Future" campaign, which featured soccer stars Wayne Rooney and Cristiano
Ronaldo as well as other famous athletes such as Kobe Bryant and Roger Federer.
The ad has gotten almost 16 million views on YouTube since the middle of
May. Adidas’ own Star Wars-themed World Cup video featuring soccer legend David
Beckham, released at the start of the World Cup, has drawn just over three
"Social media has made ambush marketing easier, simply because of the
virality of it," Alex Burmaster, vice president of communications for
Nielsen, told Reuters. "Some
people call it an echo chamber."
"If you’re a company with a large global footprint, it’s
natural to want to associate yourself with a major worldwide event like the
World Cup," said
Pete Blackshaw, executive vice president of digital strategy at The Nielsen
Company, in a statement. "This study shows that compelling, savvy marketing
can establish this sort of connection in the eyes of consumers without having
to write that expensive sponsorship check."
Nonetheless, Nielsen noted
that the sponsors generally have so far benefited from their association with
- Coca-Cola had five times the level of association with the World Cup than
- Triggered by Twitter retweets in early June to its FIFA YouTube page and
its campaign to create the longest "goal" shout, Visa had 15
times the World Cup association than MasterCard.
- Sony, tying its launch of 3D TV sets to the World Cup, had association
levels seven times higher than Panasonic and ten times higher than Philips.
Discussion Questions: What do you think of the opportunities as well as
the ethics around ambush marketing campaigns for events such as the World
Cup and the Olympics? When does ambush marketing violate the official sponsor’s
rights? Has social media made ambush marketing more effective?
- At World Cup,
Publicity Money Can’t Buy – The New York
- Nike Ambushes Official World Cup Sponsors – The Nielsen
- Ambush marketing gives Nike leg up for World Cup – Reuters