What is ambush marketing?
Ambush marketing is a promotional strategy whereby a company associates itself with a major event, usually without official sponsorship rights. The aim is to benefit from the positive publicity and increased brand awareness generated by the event, while avoiding the costs of sponsoring it.
Examples of ambush marketing can be seen in many high-profile events such as the Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, and Super Bowl. In each of these events, there are official sponsors who have paid large sums of money for the exclusive right to associate their brands with the event. However, there are also many companies who try to ‘ambush’ these events by creating promotions that exploit any association with them.
One well-known example is when Paddy Power, an Irish bookmaker, placed billboards near Wimbledon tennis courts in 2010 which read “C’mon Tim!”, in an attempt to capitalise on British player Tim Henman’s popularity. Another example was during the 2006 FIFA World Cup when retailer Ikea distributed free Swedish flags to English fans in order to generate goodwill for its brand.
Why do companies use ambush marketing?
There are several reasons why companies may choose to use ambush marketing as part of their promotional strategy:
Rona catches Apple’s paint
Rona, a Canadian home improvement and hardware store, has caught Apple’s paint in an ambush marketing campaign. Rona ran a series of ads in newspapers and on TV that showed off its “paint picking” service, complete with the tagline “Catch the best paint at Rona.”
The ads were timed to coincide with the release of Apple’s new i phone 6s, which was available in stores on September 25. The new i phone comes in two colors: space gray and silver. Rona’s ads featured photos of both colors of the phone, along with cans of its own brand paint in those same colors.
The implication was clear: Rona is the place to go for all your painting needs, whether you’re painting your walls or your new i phone.
Apple was not happy about the campaign and quickly sent a cease-and-desist letter to Rona. But it seems like the damage may have already been done-the ad campaign was successful in getting people talking about Rona, and not Apple.
Newcastle mocks Stella
Stella Artois is a Belgian beer that has been around since 1926. It’s a pilsner-style beer with an alcohol content of 5%. The brand is owned by AB InBev, the world’s largest brewing company. Newcastle Brown Ale is a British brown ale that has been brewed since 1927. It has an alcohol content of 4.7%. The brand is owned by Heineken International, the world’s second largest brewing company.
In January of 2018, Newcastle Brown Ale released a series of ads in the United Kingdom that mocked Stella Artois’ “Reassuringly Expensive” tagline. The ads featured pictures of people drinking Newcastle Brown Ale with the tagline “Newcastle: Reassuringly Affordable.” Stella Artois responded by saying that their tagline was meant to be tongue-in-cheek and that they were not concerned about the ads from Newcastle Brown Ale.
This isn’t the first time that these two brands have taken shots at each other. In 2013, Stella Artois released an ad in the United Kingdom that featured a woman walking into a bar and ordering a pint of Newcastle Brown Ale. The bartender then hands her a Stella Artois and says “You’re not having that,” to which she responds “I know.” This was in response to an ad from 2009 in which actor Neil Morrissey walks into a bar and orders a pint of Stella Artois, but is told by the bartender that they don’t serve it there because it’s too expensive.
Stella becomes the (un)official beer of US Open a prime example of ambush marketing
In what has been called a prime example of ambush marketing, Stella Artois has become the (un)official beer of the US Open. The company has not paid a cent to be the official beer sponsor of the event, but has cleverly placed itself in key locations around the tournament grounds and used social media to create a buzz around its product.
As a result, Stella Artois is now one of the most visible brands at the US Open, even though it is not an official sponsor. This is likely to cause headaches for Michelob Ultra, which pays millions of dollars to be the official beer sponsor of golf’s biggest tournament.
While Michelob Ultra will still be served at all bars and restaurants inside the tournament grounds, Stella Artois will be hard to avoid for anyone watching on television or walking around outside the gates. The company has erected giant red tents serving free beer near some of the busiest entrances to the grounds, and it has also installed digital billboards that can’t be missed by passersby on nearby roads.
In addition, Stella Artois has been running ads on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram that feature images of its cans and bottles in front of famous US Open landmarks like Arthur Ashe Stadium. The company is also giving away tickets to next year’s tournament through a social media contest.
It’s all part of Stella Artois’ plan to become “the most talked-about brand” at this year’s US Open, according to senior marketing manager Nick Amovi. And it seems to be working so far: A quick search on Twitter reveals that hundreds of people have already posted about drinking Stella Artois at this year’s event.
“Companies who ambush market are nothing but opportunists, trying to steal the thunder from the competition.”