Ambush Marketing Hits the World Cup

Discussion
Jun 18, 2010
Tom Ryan

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
million viewers.

"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
the games:


  • Coca-Cola had five times the level of association with the World Cup than
    Pepsi. 
  • 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?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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19 Comments on "Ambush Marketing Hits the World Cup"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

The opportunities are as high as the ethics are low.

Ethics? Ambush marketing? Be serious!

Liz Crawford
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

To me, ethics is a bit beside the point. Ambush marketing is here because there is an opportunity to capitalize on events that garner a lot of attention. As long as there are ways for viewers to create “buzz” (via any digital or other means), there will be guerrilla tactics, such as the women in the orange dresses.

If I were a planner for a World Cup sponsor I would be doing some scenario planning on ambush competitors. So–perhaps there is a slightly new discipline attached to this phenomenon.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
10 years 10 months ago

Hmmmm…Clydesdales vs. women in skimpy outfits. Sounds like a throwdown. Ethics in advertising. What a concept!

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
10 years 10 months ago

Another question might be “Is there still such a thing as ‘exclusive’ with the Internet available?”

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Ambush Marketing sounds so negative. If we called it Guerilla Marketing we would be applauding it.

Did the ladies buy their tickets? If so, let them in. Shame on FIFA.

Somehow, this strikes me as being a First Amendment issue, but of course, it is not in the First Amendment country.

In any case, when a sponsor puts up millions of dollars for a preferred position at an event, the sponsor is taking a chance. The sponsor is betting that the activity will serve him well. It may or may not. It is the sponsor’s responsibility to make the best of it. If a competitor can successfully attack that position, good for the competitor.

As for me, I am disappointed that Bavaria is Dutch and not German. By the way, isn’t Bud Dutch now?

Max Goldberg
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Marketing has always been about generating exposure and word of mouth for a product or service. If you are going to fish where the fish are, why shouldn’t marketers try to gain customers by advertising in or around big events, regardless of who are the official sponsors? It’s incumbent upon the official sponsors to create memorable advertising and not just rely on the sponsorship to deliver consumer impressions.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
10 years 10 months ago

Unethical? Yes. Effective? Absolutely. The news and social media gave the brewer huge exposure. It would be nice if everyone played fair. Unfortunately that is not always the case in the real world.

On a less serious note, I thought they all looked great in orange and that is tough to do.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Ethics? Seriously. This is not about ethics. It is about exposure. There is a difference between a Clydesdale and a pretty woman in a skimpy bathing suit. There is a different attention getter in play there.

Marketing’s objective is to create visibility. Ambush marketing’s objective is to take advantage of what others have done ethically.

One could say the couple who went to the White House party uninvited were ambush marketers. Look at the play and exposure they received.

Carlos Arambula
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

The orange clad miniskirts achieved their objective. The coverage of the guerrilla marketing effort will outweigh any penalties, arrests, or fines the brewer will receive.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Comment: Part 2

Unethical? As a marketer, do we sit on the sidelines because a competitor has bought a sponsorship to an event? This is brilliant and highly ethical and how the game is played. As you sit in a marketing meeting trying to come up with an idea of how to get World Cup exposure that you were locked out of because you didn’t have the gazillions of dollars that you competitor had, would you dismiss the meeting and say “they bought it; they have the rights; there is nothing we can do!”?

As I said in my first comment, if we called this “Guerrilla Marketing,” ethics wouldn’t be an issue.

James Tenser
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

In guerrilla marketing, the ethics are beside the point. We could just as well question the righteousness of “exclusive” sponsorships which limit competitive options to only the very largest brands. Sure, a deal’s a deal, but did anyone ask the target audience what best serves their needs?

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

What about the companies that sponsor $1000 scholarships at the college football games? That certainly is much less expensive than the price of advertising and generates a lot of exposure. Is this unethical? Hasn’t ambush marketing been used for a long time?

Mike Rich
Guest
Mike Rich
10 years 10 months ago

Now is the time to really capitalize on the ambush marketing. If I were Nike, I’d track down each one of those lovely ladies from Bavaria and outfit them in Nike tennis shoes. Paid ads during the remainder of the World Cup would be win-win for Bavaria and Nike.

Dennis Serbu
Guest
Dennis Serbu
10 years 10 months ago

Marketing and politics. We get further and further from a basis in truth, meanwhile our moral standards erode and our ability to decipher atrophies.

Features and benefits, quality and service, vision and leadership. Abandoned to a miniskirt.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

From an ethical standpoint, I consider this a non-issue, since the whole “official” moniker is largely nonsensical: I could see some validity in the case of something like stopwatches or actual (sporting) equipment but what, pray tell, does it mean to be the “official” beer or floor cleaner or whatever?

Chuck Palmer
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Someone at Nike is going home with a bonus this quarter. Look at those numbers! This is the sort of thing that keeps us all on our toes and keeps innovation and creativity alive.

Anyone see the giant sculpture Nike sponsored made of soccer (futbol) balls? I know I posted it to my Facebook page and a bunch of people passed it along from there. And that was just one tactic.

This should mark the beginning of the end of big check marketing.

Someone at adidas is going to think twice about it next time.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
10 years 10 months ago

I am against this. The athletes train and sacrifice for years for the opportunity to compete. I feel that behavior like this should strongly be discouraged.

Devangshu Dutta
Guest
Devangshu Dutta
10 years 10 months ago

Obviously there’s attention being focused on the comparison of big-budget conventional marketing versus guerrilla marketing through unconventional on-site means, viral media etc.

But the critical success factor in guerrilla marketing is not the medium; it’s the attitude that cuts the clutter.

As an example, witness the fizzy wars in India.

During the cricket world cup in 1997 in South Asia, Coke’s sponsorship obviously gave it the bragging rights. Pepsi ran a hugely successful campaign on conventional TV and print media titled “Nothing Official About It” and stole Coke’s thunder successfully.

Since then both giants have run some very creative guerrilla campaigns against each other’s themes. Hard work for the marketing teams, entertaining for the rest of us.

Brian Kelly
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

“Business is not conducted in a church.”
Jerry Welsh, father of ambush marketing.

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