Ambush Marketing

Could he help you with marketing?

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How do you try to improve your business and marketing success?

Obviously you know that the best way of learning is doing. But that can be a very expensive way of learning what works – and what doesn’t.

Do you ever study, attended seminars or use consultants?

I ask because I attended the Nottingham Post Business Summit the other week. It had four seasoned speakers including Josephine Fairley, co-founder of the Green & Blacks chocolate brand.

But the stand out speaker for me was a guy called Geoff Ramm; someone I’d never heard of before the event.

He gave thought provoking marketing advice on getting your brand to stand out from the crowd. And showed some great examples of how people had done this on a shoestring.

Some of his stories were downright hilarious.

He has written a book called OMG Observational Marketing Greats, which I think I might add to my reading list.

You might want to do the same.

Or speak with him directly to see how he could help you.

Will Olympic sausages from the butcher really harm Goliath sponsors?

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Last week Oliver Astley, a friend of mine and the Business Correspondent at Derby Evening Telegraph, asked me to give my opinion on the Olympic marketing debacle.
So I did.
And he kindly printed my garbled thoughts in his well read and respected Business Weekly supplement

And if you’re interested in reading my thoughts, here they are:

TRADERS offering flaming torch baguettes or Olympic sausages are unlikely to take market share from Samsung, Lloyds Bank or Proctor and Gamble.

But that has not stopped the organising committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games from getting its knickers in a twist.

Lord Coe, holding an Olympic torch, who has come under fire for saying that people wearing logos of non-Olympic sponsors might be turned away from the Games.

The London Olympics will cost an estimated £9.3 billion to host and raising money through sponsorship is obviously crucial.

And protecting the branding rights of the 53 official sponsors, who contribute an estimated £1 billion between them, is clearly a high priority for Locog.

But there is a growing feeling that the organisers have gone too far with their heavy-handed protection of the sponsors.

Lord Coe has come in for particular criticism, having said that people wearing logos of non-Olympic sponsors might be turned away.

Putting the legal aspects aside, this is an unwelcome own goal for sponsors as it is creating a wave of negative PR – which is, ironically, the exact opposite of what sponsorship is designed to achieve.

And this comes at an uncertain time for sponsorship in general.

Major brands are evaluating the effectiveness of such large deals.

In fact, in a recent survey by Brand Republic, many people reported that they had no idea who was sponsoring the Olympics.

And 16% of people surveyed thought Tesco was a sponsor. It is not.

Similarly, Canon, Carlsberg, Sky and Orange, none of whom have anything to do with the Games, were all named as sponsors by those surveyed.

But Locog’s policing of the Games is not just to give sponsors maximum value for their investment. It is to stave off the threat of ambush marketing.

This is a controversial tactic whereby a brand tries to make it appear that it is associated with an event for which it has purchased no rights, usually drawing attention away from the official sponsor.

And to be fair to Lord Coe and Locog, ambush marketing is a genuine concern as there have been numerous examples of this tactic at major sporting events.

These include a construction of a heavily-branded Nike village next to the athletes’ village at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, at which Reebok was the official footwear sponsor.

And who could forget the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when the Bavaria brewing company outfitted 30 Dutch women in mini-dresses in its trademark orange for the Netherlands’ opening game against Denmark – much to the annoyance of official beer sponsor Budweiser?

What makes this even more frustrating for sponsors is the David and Goliath effect.

This is because, if the brand doing the ambushing is significantly smaller than the official sponsor, as it often is, the public tend to side with the little guy.

Particularly if the big guy stops the little guy giving away freebies. After all, we all like getting free stuff.

People involved in ambush marketing think it’s clever and often funny but, for me, it’s nothing more than theft that damages the value of sponsorship.

And ultimately, if the sponsors do not get the return-on-investment they need, they will simply stop investing their marketing money, which could be disastrous for many sporting events.

It will be interesting to see what unofficial sponsors hungry for Olympic publicity will come up with – but let’s hope common sense prevails and Usain Bolt is not turned away for wearing trainers made by Puma.

What is ambush marketing? And will brands add it to their promotional mix for this years’ Olympics and UEFA European Football Championships?

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In answer to the first question in my title, ambush marketing is when a brand intentionally tries to make itself seem associated with an event for which it has purchased no rights and is not an official sponsor.

Typically, due to large TV audiences and human attendees, these events tend to be sports related – and to a lesser degree music.

The reasons brands use ambush marketing as part of their promotional mix varies. For instance some choose to do it to attack rivals; whist for others it’s a way to gain awareness and engagement using meagre marketing funds – stealing impact from their bigger, richer competitors.

But no matter what the strategy is behind the tactic – it is both creative and parasitic in equal measure.

And there have been lots of examples of this in recent years. For example:

On a major road leading to the 2008 French Open tennis tournament in Paris, sports brand K-Swiss parked a car that appeared to have been squashed by a giant K-Swiss-branded tennis ball. Across the street, a K-Swiss van distributed gifts and marketing materials highlighting the brand and its involvement with tennis.

But the problem was that K-Swiss was not an official tournament sponsor and hadn’t paid a penny for involvement – yet managed to get some great awareness and engagement with the public.

15 Love to them then!

And ambush marketing can create a David and Goliath effect too

This is because if the brand doing the ambushing is significantly smaller than the official sponsor, as it was in the K-Swiss example, the public often side with the small guy! Particularly if the big guy stops the small guy giving something away for free. After all, who doesn’t like something for nothing?

But ambushing a major event doesn’t have to include free giveaways to be successful.

For example in 1992 American Express launched an advertising campaign using images and scenes from Barcelona – which was the host city of the Summer Olympics held in that year.

Their adverts were accompanied by the line “You don’t need a visa to visit Spain”.

This was of course American Express’ attempt to ambush the Olympics, shifting impact away from the games official sponsor, and their major rival, Visa.

Although I should point out that, far from being proud of the tactic, American Express denied any wrong doing, stating that the adverts did not directly refer to the Olympics and was not an attempt at an ambush.

And of course, who could forget those clever marketing people at Dutch beer brand Bavaria for their cunning marketing stunt during the Holland versus Denmark game during the South Africa World Cup Finals – click here to read more

But brands should consider their long-term impact on events

This is because major brands, who see their ROI diminished by successful ambushes, might simply withdraw from spending millions on official sponsorship. And let’s be honest, if this kind of marketing tactic isn’t stamped out, why should they invest their money? And without these large sponsorship deals, major events may suffer from a severe lack of funds.

So will brands use ambush marketing at this years sports events?

My money is on yes.