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.

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 return-on-investment (ROI).

Businesses who 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.

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. 

Marketing Glossary 

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.

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.

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 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.

Digital Marketing

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.

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.

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 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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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