What Is Ambush marketing And Why It Matters In Business

As the name suggests, ambush marketing raises awareness for brands at events in a covert and unexpected fashion. Ambush marketing takes many forms, one common element, the brand advertising their products or services has not paid for the right to do so. Thus, the business doing the ambushing attempts to capitalize on the efforts made by the business sponsoring the event.

DefinitionAmbush Marketing is a marketing strategy where a brand or company unofficially associates itself with a major event, such as a sports event or entertainment show, without being an official sponsor. It aims to capitalize on the event’s audience and publicity without paying for sponsorship rights.
Key ConceptsUnofficial Association: Brands create the perception of being affiliated with an event without official sponsorship. – Leveraging Publicity: Taking advantage of the event’s media coverage and audience without financial commitment. – Creative Tactics: Using innovative and often unconventional tactics to gain attention. – Legality and Ethics: Balancing between clever marketing and legal or ethical boundaries.
CharacteristicsSubversion: Often involves challenging or subverting the official sponsors’ dominance. – Surprise Element: Aims to surprise and grab attention, often at the expense of official sponsors. – Risk-Taking: Requires taking calculated risks to benefit from the event’s buzz. – Short-Term Focus: Usually focused on the duration of the event.
Examples– Setting up unauthorized advertising near an event venue. – Running creative and unofficial social media campaigns related to a major sporting event. – Exploiting loopholes in advertising restrictions to indirectly reference the event. – Using event-related keywords or hashtags in promotional materials.
AdvantagesCost Savings: Avoids the high costs of official sponsorship while gaining event-related exposure. – Attention-Grabbing: Often generates attention and buzz due to its unexpected and subversive nature. – Creative Freedom: Allows for creative and unconventional marketing tactics. – Competitive Advantage: Can challenge and compete with official sponsors.
ChallengesLegal Risks: Can lead to legal challenges if perceived as infringing on event rights or misleading consumers. – Ethical Concerns: May raise ethical questions if seen as deceptive or unfair to official sponsors. – Reputation Risk: Can damage a brand’s reputation if executed poorly or viewed negatively. – Short-Term Impact: Typically offers short-term visibility during the event’s duration.
Adoption TrendsAmbush Marketing remains a popular strategy for brands looking to gain exposure during major events without committing to official sponsorship. It requires careful planning to navigate legal and ethical challenges successfully.
ConclusionAmbush Marketing is a strategy that involves unofficially associating a brand with a major event, leveraging the event’s audience and publicity without official sponsorship. While it can be cost-effective and attention-grabbing, it also carries legal and ethical risks, and brands must exercise creativity and caution when executing ambush marketing campaigns.

Ambush marketing explained

Businesses spend vast sums of money sponsoring large events relating to sport, entertainment, and education – primarily as a brand-building exercise.

Despite not paying for the privilege, competitors then gain access to these events and attempt to increase exposure for their own brands. This is ambush marketing at work.

Within ambush marketing itself, there exists direct and indirect ambush marketing.

Direct ambush marketing

A direct ambush describes the actions of a business that intentionally associates themselves with an event without the right to do so.

When Pepsi secured the sponsorship rights to the 1997 Pepsi Asia Cup, Coca-Cola made a deliberate and calculated play for the broadcast rights.

This gave Coca-Cola valuable exposure and left Pepsi unable to capitalize on their sponsorship financially.

Less antagonistic ambush marketing can also be seen in trademark and copyright infringement.

For example, the red cross logo that medical institutions use to market themselves globally is, in fact, a property infringement of the International Committee of the Red Cross. 

Indirect ambush marketing

Indirect ambush marketing involves a more subtle approach. The business concerned does not try to take advantage of the competitor who has paid for sponsorship rights.

Instead, it attempts to take advantage of the hype surrounding the event itself.

Any possible affiliation between the ambushing business and the event is unofficial and left for the consumer to decide.

In the lead up to the 2012 Olympic Games, Irish gambling chain Paddy Power put up billboards claiming to be the “official sponsor of the largest athletics event in London.”

In much smaller print, however, they stipulated that the town referred to in the campaign was London, France.

The result was that Paddy Power was able to create marketing hype around the Olympic Games – since consumers knew which London was being referenced – while avoiding any legal ramifications in the process.

Advantages and disadvantages of ambush marketing

The most obvious advantage of ambush marketing is that it is low-cost and has the potential to be highly effective. In successful marketing campaigns, the exposure a brand receives will outweigh any fines or penalties that may be incurred.

Businesses who engage in ambush marketing also create associations with that event in the minds of their target audience.

This increases brand equity or the perceived commercial value of a brand name over a product or service.

In terms of disadvantages, ambush marketing can sometimes involve heavy penalties or lawsuits that exceed the financial benefits of brand exposure.

Since ambush marketing campaigns are relatively spontaneous and unpredictable, it is hard to predict the return on investment (ROI).

Businesses that engage in ambush marketing must also be prepared for long, protracted disagreements with the business they are ambushing.

These disagreements have the potential to erase beneficial exposure and needlessly eat into marketing budgets over time.

Ambush Marketing vs. Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that seeks to utilize low-cost and sometimes unconventional tactics that are high impact. First coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book of the same title, guerrilla marketing works best on existing customers who are familiar with a brand or product and its particular characteristics.

Whereas in a guerrilla marketing scenario, a company focuses on how to generate buzz with unconventional marketing tactics.

In an ambush marketing scenario, a company focuses on gaining attention and exposure over a competitor’s sponsorship arrangement by finding ways to hack that and gain exposure.

Ambush marketing is indeed a form of guerrilla marketing.

But Guerrilla Marketing can be broader and look into unconventional ways to create buzz around a brand.

The example below of ambush marketing in action is the example of Newcastle mocking Stella Artois and its “chalice” campaign:

Ambush Marketing vs. Grassroots Marketing

Grassroots marketing involves a brand creating highly targeted content for a particular niche or audience. When an organization engages in grassroots marketing, it focuses on a small group of people with the hope that its marketing message is shared with a progressively larger audience.

Whereas ambush marketing focuses on gaining attention from a competitor’s marketing attempt, grassroots marketing instead involves creating targeted content for a niche audience.

Case Studies

1. Pepsi vs. Coca-Cola (1997 Pepsi Asia Cup): Pepsi secured the sponsorship rights to the 1997 Pepsi Asia Cup cricket tournament. Coca-Cola engaged in direct ambush marketing by acquiring broadcast rights. This move allowed Coca-Cola to gain valuable exposure and overshadow Pepsi’s sponsorship.

2. Paddy Power and the 2012 Olympics: In the lead-up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Irish gambling company Paddy Power put up billboards claiming to be the “official sponsor of the largest athletics event in London.” However, in small print, they clarified it was London, France, not London, England. This indirect ambush marketing tactic generated attention and hype around the Olympics without violating any sponsorship agreements.

3. Nike at the 2012 London Olympics: Nike, not an official sponsor of the London Olympics, ran a marketing campaign featuring athletes wearing Nike gear with slogans like “Find Your Greatness” during the event. This indirect approach aimed to associate Nike with the spirit of the Olympics without violating sponsorship rules.

4. Beats by Dre at the FIFA World Cup: During the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Beats by Dre, a competitor of official sponsor Sony, launched an ad campaign featuring top soccer players wearing Beats headphones. This tactic indirectly associated Beats with the World Cup and garnered attention.

5. Bavaria Beer at the FIFA World Cup: In 2010, Dutch brewery Bavaria Beer used an indirect ambush marketing tactic at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. They dressed a group of attractive female fans in orange mini-dresses (the Dutch national color) with the brewery’s logo. This generated significant media coverage and created an association with the event, despite Bavaria not being an official sponsor.

6. Nike and the Olympic Rings: In the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Nike erected billboards near the Olympic venues that featured a swoosh (Nike’s logo) in the shape of the Olympic rings. Although Nike wasn’t an official sponsor, the visual connection to the Olympics drew attention.

7. Guinness and the Rugby World Cup: Guinness, not an official sponsor of the Rugby World Cup, launched an ad campaign featuring fans and rugby players holding pints of Guinness in the shape of a rugby ball. This indirect approach associated Guinness with the tournament.

8. Red Bull and Felix Baumgartner’s Space Jump: Red Bull sponsored Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking space jump in 2012. The event garnered global attention, indirectly promoting the Red Bull brand.

9. Nike’s “You Don’t Win Silver” Campaign: During the 2012 Olympics, Nike launched an ad campaign with the slogan “You Don’t Win Silver, You Lose Gold.” Although Nike was not an official sponsor, this campaign sought to associate the brand with elite athletes and competition.

10. Under Armour’s “Rule Yourself” Campaign: Under Armour launched the “Rule Yourself” campaign featuring Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, even though Nike was the official sponsor of the U.S. Olympic team. This indirect ambush marketing effort aimed to align Under Armour with Olympic athletes.

Key takeaways

  • Ambush marketing describes the scenario in which a business ambushes a competitor’s event sponsorship arrangement in an attempt to gain more exposure.
  • Ambush marketing can be direct or indirect, depending on the objectives of the company and its ability to absorb fines or litigation costs.
  • Ambush marketing is a high risk, high reward strategy. It increases brand equity and is a cost-effective form of advertising. But the ROI is hard to predict and it can lead to public battles between organizations. 

Key Highlights:

  • Ambush Marketing Definition: Ambush marketing is a strategy where brands seek to raise awareness during events in a covert and unexpected manner, often without officially sponsoring the event. This strategy aims to capitalize on the efforts and attention generated by the event’s official sponsors.
  • Direct Ambush Marketing: In direct ambush marketing, a business intentionally associates itself with an event without proper sponsorship rights. For example, a competitor might secure broadcast rights for an event sponsored by a rival company.
  • Indirect Ambush Marketing: Indirect ambush marketing takes a more subtle approach. Businesses do not attempt to challenge the event’s official sponsors but aim to leverage the event’s hype. This affiliation is unofficial and left for consumers to interpret.
  • Advantages of Ambush Marketing: Ambush marketing is cost-effective and can generate significant brand exposure. It creates associations with the event in the minds of the audience, enhancing brand equity.
  • Disadvantages of Ambush Marketing: Ambush marketing can lead to penalties or lawsuits that may outweigh the benefits. It is difficult to predict ROI, and disputes with the event’s official sponsors can erode the positive effects of exposure.
  • Ambush Marketing vs. Guerrilla Marketing: While ambush marketing focuses on gaining attention over a competitor’s sponsorship arrangement, guerrilla marketing employs unconventional tactics to generate buzz around a brand. Ambush marketing is a subset of guerrilla marketing.
  • Ambush Marketing vs. Grassroots Marketing: Ambush marketing aims to gain attention during specific events, while grassroots marketing involves creating targeted content for niche audiences, with the hope that it spreads to a broader audience.

Visual Marketing Glossary

Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy where the marketing and sales departments come together to create personalized buying experiences for high-value accounts. Account-based marketing is a business-to-business (B2B) approach in which marketing and sales teams work together to target high-value accounts and turn them into customers.


Ad Ops – also known as Digital Ad Operations – refers to systems and processes that support digital advertisements’ delivery and management. The concept describes any process that helps a marketing team manage, run, or optimize ad campaigns, making them an integrating part of the business operations.

AARRR Funnel

Venture capitalist, Dave McClure, coined the acronym AARRR which is a simplified model that enables to understand what metrics and channels to look at, at each stage for the users’ path toward becoming customers and referrers of a brand.

Affinity Marketing

Affinity marketing involves a partnership between two or more businesses to sell more products. Note that this is a mutually beneficial arrangement where one brand can extend its reach and enhance its credibility in association with the other.

Ambush Marketing

As the name suggests, ambush marketing raises awareness for brands at events in a covert and unexpected fashion. Ambush marketing takes many forms, one common element, the brand advertising their products or services has not paid for the right to do so. Thus, the business doing the ambushing attempts to capitalize on the efforts made by the business sponsoring the event.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing describes the process whereby an affiliate earns a commission for selling the products of another person or company. Here, the affiliate is simply an individual who is motivated to promote a particular product through incentivization. The business whose product is being promoted will gain in terms of sales and marketing from affiliates.

Bullseye Framework

The bullseye framework is a simple method that enables you to prioritize the marketing channels that will make your company gain traction. The main logic of the bullseye framework is to find the marketing channels that work and prioritize them.

Brand Building

Brand building is the set of activities that help companies to build an identity that can be recognized by its audience. Thus, it works as a mechanism of identification through core values that signal trust and that help build long-term relationships between the brand and its key stakeholders.

Brand Dilution

According to inbound marketing platform HubSpot, brand dilution occurs “when a company’s brand equity diminishes due to an unsuccessful brand extension, which is a new product the company develops in an industry that they don’t have any market share in.” Brand dilution, therefore, occurs when a brand decreases in value after the company releases a product that does not align with its vision, mission, or skillset. 

Brand Essence Wheel

The brand essence wheel is a templated approach businesses can use to better understand their brand. The brand essence wheel has obvious implications for external brand strategy. However, it is equally important in simplifying brand strategy for employees without a strong marketing background. Although many variations of the brand essence wheel exist, a comprehensive wheel incorporates information from five categories: attributes, benefits, values, personality, brand essence.

Brand Equity

The brand equity is the premium that a customer is willing to pay for a product that has all the objective characteristics of existing alternatives, thus, making it different in terms of perception. The premium on seemingly equal products and quality is attributable to its brand equity.

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is about creating a mental real estate in the mind of the target market. If successful, brand positioning allows a business to gain a competitive advantage. And it also works as a switching cost in favor of the brand. Consumers recognizing a brand might be less prone to switch to another brand.

Business Storytelling

Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long-term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is one of the most powerful commercial activities which focuses on leveraging content production (text, audio, video, or other formats) to attract a targeted audience. Content marketing focuses on building a strong brand, but also to convert part of that targeted audience into potential customers.

Customer Lifetime Value

One of the first mentions of customer lifetime value was in the 1988 book Database Marketing: Strategy and Implementation written by Robert Shaw and Merlin Stone. Customer lifetime value (CLV) represents the value of a customer to a company over a period of time. It represents a critical business metric, especially for SaaS or recurring revenue-based businesses.

Customer Segmentation

Customer segmentation is a marketing method that divides the customers in sub-groups, that share similar characteristics. Thus, product, marketing and engineering teams can center the strategy from go-to-market to product development and communication around each sub-group. Customer segments can be broken down is several ways, such as demographics, geography, psychographics and more.

Developer Marketing

Developer marketing encompasses tactics designed to grow awareness and adopt software tools, solutions, and SaaS platforms. Developer marketing has become the standard among software companies with a platform component, where developers can build applications on top of the core software or open software. Therefore, engaging developer communities has become a key element of marketing for many digital businesses.

Digital Marketing Channels

A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.

Field Marketing

Field marketing is a general term that encompasses face-to-face marketing activities carried out in the field. These activities may include street promotions, conferences, sales, and various forms of experiential marketing. Field marketing, therefore, refers to any marketing activity that is performed in the field.

Funnel Marketing

interaction with a brand until they become a paid customer and beyond. Funnel marketing is modeled after the marketing funnel, a concept that tells the company how it should market to consumers based on their position in the funnel itself. The notion of a customer embarking on a journey when interacting with a brand was first proposed by Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. Funnel marketing typically considers three stages of a non-linear marketing funnel. These are top of the funnel (TOFU), middle of the funnel (MOFU), and bottom of the funnel (BOFU). Particular marketing strategies at each stage are adapted to the level of familiarity the consumer has with a brand.

Go-To-Market Strategy

A go-to-market strategy represents how companies market their new products to reach target customers in a scalable and repeatable way. It starts with how new products/services get developed to how these organizations target potential customers (via sales and marketing models) to enable their value proposition to be delivered to create a competitive advantage.


The term “greenwashing” was first coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986 at a time when most consumers received their news from television, radio, and print media. Some companies took advantage of limited public access to information by portraying themselves as environmental stewards – even when their actions proved otherwise. Greenwashing is a deceptive marketing practice where a company makes unsubstantiated claims about an environmentally-friendly product or service.

Grassroots Marketing

Grassroots marketing involves a brand creating highly targeted content for a particular niche or audience. When an organization engages in grassroots marketing, it focuses on a small group of people with the hope that its marketing message is shared with a progressively larger audience.

Growth Marketing

Growth marketing is a process of rapid experimentation, which in a way has to be “scientific” by keeping in mind that it is used by startups to grow, quickly. Thus, the “scientific” here is not meant in the academic sense. Growth marketing is expected to unlock growth, quickly and with an often limited budget.

Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that seeks to utilize low-cost and sometimes unconventional tactics that are high impact. First coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book of the same title, guerrilla marketing works best on existing customers who are familiar with a brand or product and its particular characteristics.

Hunger Marketing

Hunger marketing is a marketing strategy focused on manipulating consumer emotions. By bringing products to market with an attractive price point and restricted supply, consumers have a stronger desire to make a purchase.

Integrated Communication

Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is an approach used by businesses to coordinate and brand their communication strategies. Integrated marketing communication takes separate marketing functions and combines them into one, interconnected approach with a core brand message that is consistent across various channels. These encompass owned, earned, and paid media. Integrated marketing communication has been used to great effect by companies such as Snapchat, Snickers, and Domino’s.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy designed to attract customers to a brand with content and experiences that they derive value from. Inbound marketing utilizes blogs, events, SEO, and social media to create brand awareness and attract targeted consumers. By attracting or “drawing in” a targeted audience, inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing which actively pushes a brand onto consumers who may have no interest in what is being offered.

Integrated Marketing

Integrated marketing describes the process of delivering consistent and relevant content to a target audience across all marketing channels. It is a cohesive, unified, and immersive marketing strategy that is cost-effective and relies on brand identity and storytelling to amplify the brand to a wider and wider audience.

Marketing Mix

The marketing mix is a term to describe the multi-faceted approach to a complete and effective marketing plan. Traditionally, this plan included the four Ps of marketing: price, product, promotion, and place. But the exact makeup of a marketing mix has undergone various changes in response to new technologies and ways of thinking. Additions to the four Ps include physical evidence, people, process, and even politics.

Marketing Myopia

Marketing myopia is the nearsighted focus on selling goods and services at the expense of consumer needs. Marketing myopia was coined by Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt in 1960. Originally, Levitt described the concept in the context of organizations in high-growth industries that become complacent in their belief that such industries never fail.

Marketing Personas

Marketing personas give businesses a general overview of key segments of their target audience and how these segments interact with their brand. Marketing personas are based on the data of an ideal, fictional customer whose characteristics, needs, and motivations are representative of a broader market segment.

Meme Marketing

Meme marketing is any marketing strategy that uses memes to promote a brand. The term “meme” itself was popularized by author Richard Dawkins over 50 years later in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. In the book, Dawkins described how ideas evolved and were shared across different cultures. The internet has enabled this exchange to occur at an exponential rate, with the first modern memes emerging in the late 1990s and early 2000s.


Microtargeting is a marketing strategy that utilizes consumer demographic data to identify the interests of a very specific group of individuals. Like most marketing strategies, the goal of microtargeting is to positively influence consumer behavior.

Multi-Channel Marketing

Multichannel marketing executes a marketing strategy across multiple platforms to reach as many consumers as possible. Here, a platform may refer to product packaging, word-of-mouth advertising, mobile apps, email, websites, or promotional events, and all the other channels that can help amplify the brand to reach as many consumers as possible.

Multi-Level Marketing

Multi-level marketing (MLM), otherwise known as network or referral marketing, is a strategy in which businesses sell their products through person-to-person sales. When consumers join MLM programs, they act as distributors. Distributors make money by selling the product directly to other consumers. They earn a small percentage of sales from those that they recruit to do the same – often referred to as their “downline”.

Net Promoter Score

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measure of the ability of a product or service to attract word-of-mouth advertising. NPS is a crucial part of any marketing strategy since attracting and then retaining customers means they are more likely to recommend a business to others.


Neuromarketing information is collected by measuring brain activity related to specific brain functions using sophisticated and expensive technology such as MRI machines. Some businesses also choose to make inferences of neurological responses by analyzing biometric and heart-rate data. Neuromarketing is the domain of large companies with similarly large budgets or subsidies. These include Frito-Lay, Google, and The Weather Channel.


Newsjacking as a marketing strategy was popularised by David Meerman Scott in his book Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. Newsjacking describes the practice of aligning a brand with a current event to generate media attention and increase brand exposure.

Niche Marketing

A microniche is a subset of potential customers within a niche. In the era of dominating digital super-platforms, identifying a microniche can kick off the strategy of digital businesses to prevent competition against large platforms. As the microniche becomes a niche, then a market, scale becomes an option.

Push vs. Pull Marketing

We can define pull and push marketing from the perspective of the target audience or customers. In push marketing, as the name suggests, you’re promoting a product so that consumers can see it. In a pull strategy, consumers might look for your product or service drawn by its brand.

Real-Time Marketing

Real-time marketing is as exactly as it sounds. It involves in-the-moment marketing to customers across any channel based on how that customer is interacting with the brand.

Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing involves businesses and their brands forming long-term relationships with customers. The focus of relationship marketing is to increase customer loyalty and engagement through high-quality products and services. It differs from short-term processes focused solely on customer acquisition and individual sales.

Reverse Marketing

Reverse marketing describes any marketing strategy that encourages consumers to seek out a product or company on their own. This approach differs from a traditional marketing strategy where marketers seek out the consumer.


Remarketing involves the creation of personalized and targeted ads for consumers who have already visited a company’s website. The process works in this way: as users visit a brand’s website, they are tagged with cookies that follow the users, and as they land on advertising platforms where retargeting is an option (like social media platforms) they get served ads based on their navigation.

Sensory Marketing

Sensory marketing describes any marketing campaign designed to appeal to the five human senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are enabling marketers to design fun, interactive, and immersive sensory marketing brand experiences. Long term, businesses must develop sensory marketing campaigns that are relevant and effective in eCommerce.

Services Marketing

Services marketing originated as a separate field of study during the 1980s. Researchers realized that the unique characteristics of services required different marketing strategies to those used in the promotion of physical goods. Services marketing is a specialized branch of marketing that promotes the intangible benefits delivered by a company to create customer value.

Sustainable Marketing

Sustainable marketing describes how a business will invest in social and environmental initiatives as part of its marketing strategy. Also known as green marketing, it is often used to counteract public criticism around wastage, misleading advertising, and poor quality or unsafe products.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing is a marketing strategy skewed toward offering a great experience to existing customers and incentivizing them to share it with other potential customers. That is one of the most effective forms of marketing as it enables a company to gain traction based on existing customers’ referrals. When repeat customers become a key enabler for the brand this is one of the best organic and sustainable growth marketing strategies.

360 Marketing

360 marketing is a marketing campaign that utilizes all available mediums, channels, and consumer touchpoints. 360 marketing requires the business to maintain a consistent presence across multiple online and offline channels. This ensures it does not miss potentially lucrative customer segments. By its very nature, 360 marketing describes any number of different marketing strategies. However, a broad and holistic marketing strategy should incorporate a website, SEO, PPC, email marketing, social media, public relations, in-store relations, and traditional forms of advertising such as television.

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