Ambush Marketing: 5 Companies That Shot Wide
You need know something interesting about sponsorship. See, sponsorship is quite big business. And, sure, one brand may pay millions of dollars to just become the exclusive and official sponsor of an event. Then this is what happens. This exclusivity given will now creates a problem for those other brands. How? They are left with looking for ways to promote themselves (in connection with the event). Not just that. They are going to be doing all these without paying the sponsorship fee (and also without breaking any laws).
Let us go as far back as 2008. Look at the Beijing Olympics. It is being said that for the 2008 Beijing Olympics the T.O.P. (The Olympic Partner) program of 12 sponsors paid a total of $866 million for the chance of exclusivity. It's not yet over. Again, these same companies also spent a further $1.2 billion on supporting marketing activities. Wow, you said? You will see something more profound in the next sentences. Do you know that despite all the huge cash, recognition of these brands as the official sponsor was rated below 40% amongst consumers in a post games survey? Therefore, we can rightly say that the success of many of these campaigns really means that ambush marketing has itself become a huge growth industry.
Now, let us see how 5 companies launched Ambush Marketing attacks, and pick a lesson or two.
1. Kodak Vs Fuji
A Professor of marketing actually believed that ambush marketing began with Kodak in the 1984. Yeah, in the 1984 Olympics. In the Olympics in 1984, they were said to ran a series of campaigns suggesting they were the official sponsors (when actually, they weren’t). The Kodak guys successfully managed to convince the consumer that they were the official sponsor. But, truthfully, Fuji Film was the official sponsor.
As if that isn't enough, Kodak ambushed Fuji again in 1996. History has it that when Atlanta was awarded the rights for the 1996 summer games, Kodak again bought 50 major poster sites in the city for the next four years. This was even estimated to be $28,000 per month.
It was also said that the local committee that were organizing the Olympic had tried to negotiate with the city’s poster companies, a deal to offer Olympic sponsors first right of refusal. However, unfortunately, they were too late. So, and again, the official sponsor (Fuji) was again shown at the post by Kodak.
2. Bavaria Beer Vs Budweiser
In the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, one of the highlights, during the match between Holland and Denmark, 36 female Dutch fans were seen to arrived, wearing very cute little orange mini-dresses (which actually caught the attention of the world’s media). Nevertheless, those ladies were evicted from the stadium and were eventually arrested by police. It was claimed the dresses were actually provided by Bavaria Beer, a Dutch brewery. And as expected, FIFA officials quickly intervened in an attempt to stop the media coverage so as they could protect Budweiser- their official sponsor.
It was not a funny incident. In fact, someone from Bavaria Beer, known as Swinkels, was quoted to say that people should have the right to wear what they want. He insisted that Dutch people are so much in love with orange. And that being, they wear it on public holidays and in events like the World Cup. He justified their action with the fact that they put no branding on the dress, saying Fifa don’t have a monopoly over orange.
However, this brand known as Bavaria Beer, are not actually new to controversy. It should be remembered that, during the Fifa World Cup in Germany back in 2006, marketers from Bavaria Beer were seen to arrive with around 120,000 pairs of bright orange lederhosen emblazoned with the known Bavaria brand. Then, Fifa officials quickly issued orders for security to strip the Dutch supporters of what is categorized as offending articles. And with that, hundreds of Dutch fans are left with no other choice but to watch the game in their underwear. And as expected, the media created a big buzz with the story. It was reported that some even suggest Fifa’s heavy-handed approach to protecting Budweiser its official sponsor, infringed on human rights.
Nevertheless, from a perspective, we can say the ambush failed (since they didn’t get into the stadium). But from another dimension, we can say it worked well. Why? Suddenly, everyone across the world was talking about it!
3. Coca-Cola Vs PepsiCo
For the Olympics games in Beijing in 2008, Coca-Cola reportedly spent a total of $400 million on marketing (including a whopping $85 million to be an Olympic sponsor). But ironically, it was estimated that up to 60% of consumers believed Pepsi was the official sponsor. How? Their tactical marketing strategies.
PepsiCo created an online competition (where 160 million voters from mainland China ranked mug shots sent in by fans). Then, the winning entries were printed on cans that were cheering on Team China. As if that isn't enough, they also replaced their traditional blue cans in China with red ones, with the claim that they want to show their respect to the year of China.
4. Li Ning Vs Adidas
To become the official sportswear brand in 2008 at the Beijing Olympic Games, Adidas reportedly spent nearly $200 million. Unfortunately, they were ambushed by the Chinese sportswear brand Li Ling. When Li Ning who was a former gymnast, China’s most decorated Olympian, and a national hero (and also the founder of the sportswear company) was chosen to light the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony, the media exposure simply gave his company a free ten-minute advert across China and the world.
5. Visa Vs Amex
These two card companies are known to have been at war ever since Amex lost the Olympic rights to Visa after the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. And as if that isn't enough, hostilities rumbled on into 1992 and the Barcelona Olympics.
In the United States, the term ‘the Olympics don’t take American Express’ was Visa’s tag line (with images of ticket windows being slammed shut in the faces of American Express card holders).
And as expected, American Express also responded in style. In their own advertising campaigns they too said: ‘to visit Spain, you don’t need a visa.’ And sure, this is perhaps one of the finest examples of successful ambush marketing.