A company’s marketing team is the key to business success and is one of the most competitive departments. You can use various marketing strategies, and the marketing team is constantly looking for new ways to promote your product or the services you provide. One of the strategies we will be discussing is ambush marketing

Think of ambush marketing as having a conversation with a friend, telling them something significant happened to you. Before you get to your point, they hijack the conversation and start talking about themselves; this is how ambush marketing works. It piggybacks on another brand’s efforts in some way. 

Ambush marketing is a legal marketing strategy, but it can be a legal nightmare for your company if misused.  This article will discuss how to use ambush marketing to your advantage and what not to do.

Table of contents

Different Types of Ambush Marketing Strategies

Ambush marketing can be broken into two types, direct and indirect ambush marketing. Let’s take a deeper look into both. 

Direct Ambush Marketing

This type of ambush marketing is an intentional strategy used to give the illusion of one brand being directly associated with another (competitor). There are four types of direct ambush marketing strategies:

Predatory Marketing

If you think about a predator, you immediately think about animals and how the predator preys on weaker animals. In that sense, predatory marketing is the same as one brand’s marketing will purposely attack another brand to confuse consumers and lure them in to gain market share.

Coattail Ambushing

If you look at the coattail of a suit jacket, it’s like an awkward link to the jacket that looks like it does not belong on the jacket. Coattail ambushing marketing is similar as it links a brand to another, e.g., If one brand sponsors an entire football team. But one team member is sponsored by a different brand, and the latter is indirectly linked to the bigger sponsor.

Property or Trademark Infringement

This type of strategy is when a brand uses logos, phrases, symbols, or tagline words belonging to another brand to confuse customers.

Self-Ambushing

Large sports events like sports tournaments, music concerts, etc., will always have more than one official sponsor who will each sign a contract stipulating what they need to do to promote the event. Self-ambushing is when one of those sponsors decides to do more than the contract states and performs activities agreed by other official sponsors. 

Indirect Ambush Marketing 

Some brands indirectly associate themselves with another brand by using symbols, images, or similar promotional presence near another event. This gives the illusion of the two brands working together to gain more exposure. This is not done to ambush or steal the spotlight; it just happens. 

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How to Run a Successful Ambush Marketing Campaign

Running a successful marketing campaign can take a lot of time, planning, and resources, and its chances of being successful can be very slim. A good marketing strategy must have two things: ‘hype or buzz,’ and you need to have a great PR team to run a successful campaign.

However, the primary key to having a successful ambush marketing campaign is to take advantage of an existing campaign or even and still incorporate the key factors of a successful marketing strategy.

Your team needs to be creative about their approach and how they use the other brand or event to your advantage. You need to make sure your consumers feel like their part of something huge and get them excited for what’s to come. 

Many companies are now turning to specialized advertising agencies to help them with their marketing campaigns.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Ambush Marketing

Much like anything in life, there will always be an upside and a downside. Here we look at the advantages and disadvantages of ambush marketing:

Advantages

  • It helps improve brand equity. 
  • It creates freedom and flexibility for bigger brands’ marketing teams. 
  • It can be cost-effective, depending on the campaign.
  • It’s a creative marketing approach. 
  • It creates a direct response to a campaign. 
  • You can go off-script and have freedom of style. 
  • It’s an excellent opportunity for small businesses and start-ups to get their brand out there.

Disadvantages

  • It relies on the competitor to address the ad. 
  • It’s time and space-dependent. 
  • It makes it difficult to calculate the campaign ROI (Return on Investments). 
  • It violates the rights of the actual sponsors and other parties involved in the campaign. 
  • It requires quick thinking and detailed planning. 

Examples of Ambush Marketing – Unofficial vs Official Sponsor

Here are a few great examples to demonstrate how ambush marketing works:

  1. Samsung vs Apple

In 2011, Apple launched the iPhone S4, a much-awaited event. However, Apple fans in Sydney were surprised by a Samsung pop-up store built a few feet from the Apple storefront.

Apple fans stood in queues, waiting for hours to buy the iPhone S4 at a hefty price as Samsung was just down the road selling the Galaxy SII at a more reasonable price. You guessed it, some Apple fans ended up buying the Galaxy SII and went home.  

  1. Oreo vs Super Bowl

In 2013, during a live Super Bowl game, they had a blackout during the half-time break, and Oreo used this to their advantage.  Oreo tweeted an image of a single Oreo in low lighting with the caption, ‘Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.

Oreo stole the spotlight, and although the blackout was unplanned, the response from Oreo was anything but unplanned and took the shortest time to design caption and approve. In contrast, the Super Bowl spent millions on their ad campaign, which never ran.

  1. Snickers vs 2014 World Cup

In 2014, the World Cup was everything everyone talked about and the most-watched televised event that year.  During the Uraguay vs Italy match, player Luis Suarez bit an Italian player and was reprimanded for the third time. Snickers created the tagline ‘you’re not you when you’re hungry.’

Fans created several memes, and many people suggested Suarez be the next spokesperson for Snickers. Not long after this event, Snickers released another tagline, ‘Snickers: more satisfying than Italian.’ Both taglines made the brand the topic on everyone’s lips. 

From Twitter

How to React to Ambush Marketing

As the brand on the receiving end, how do you respond to an ambush marketing campaign? You can’t control how companies address their campaigns, but you can control how you respond to them. You can either take the high ground or the low ground. 

Taking the low ground is never really an option as it can result negatively for your brand. However, taking the high ground might be in your best interest. You can positively respond to the campaign and actively respond with a witty comment or photo. Or you can give consumers an open platform to discuss the topic. This way, all parties gain something out of the situation. 

Preventing Ambush Marketing

In most cases, as the brand on the other side, you can get ambushed whether you want it or not. There may not be ways to avoid it altogether, but there are steps you can take to protect your brand. Qualified branding agencies can also help you find ways to not only protect your brand but also find innovative ways to promote it that may not use as risky techniques as ambush marketing.

  • You Can Get a Zone Around Your Event Location

By getting a zone around your event or campaign, you can control the narrative a little. You can also rent a private space that catches people’s attention and include consumers in the sponsor packages. Or you can take preventative measures to block ambushes by controlling exit and entry points.

  • Being Proactive

When your brand is directly or illegally being ambushed, don’t let it go, be active about it. Address the responsible party and find out if a third-party provider reviewed their campaign and, if not, request that it be done.

  • Make Use of Your Rights

A lot of ambush marketing campaigns infringe trademarks or violate copyright. For situations like this, you can set clear rules to define what sponsors can and cannot do. By doing this, you can define rights and control the actions of official and non-official sponsors. 

Should Companies Use Ambush Marketing?

Using ambush marketing allows you to promote your brand, product, or service unpredictably. Because the hype has already been created for you, it inspires brands to get creative by creating exciting and memorable yet provocative campaigns. However, even though ambush marketing can be a great success, it’s not one of the most viable strategies to use. 

It is especially true for smaller brands, ass this strategy could lead to a lawsuit if not used properly. Be smart about your approach when using ambush marketing and use it to dig at your competitors. You can use the above examples to your advantage and as inspiration for plans.