Does Ambush Marketing pay

Promotional mix is a specific combination of promotional methods used for one product or a product line (family of products). It comprises of five elements; these elements are personal selling, advertising, sales promotion, direct marketing and publicity. A promotional mix specifies how much attention to pay to each of these five elements, and how much money to budget for each. A promotional plan can have a wide range of objectives, varying from increase in sale, lunching new product, retaining its position, acceptance, creation of brand equity, positioning, competitive retaliations, and last but not the least shaping the corporate image. The promotional mix thus presents information to consumers and other forces in market regarding the authenticity of the product and how it is differentiated from others.

In 1984, the Olympics became a self-sustaining entity when the International Olympics Committee (IOC) declared that it did not require public funding. They accomplished this by offering worthwhile sponsorship contracts that provided exclusive rights to “official sponsors.” Unknowingly, they also gave birth to new advertising strategy known as “Ambush marketing.”

According to Jerome McCarthy – one of the well-known marketing scientists, Ambush marketing is a type of marketing by aC company that is not an official sponsor of an event, but which places advertisements using the event, to induce customers to pay attention to their advertisement. Fundamentally, it is unwarranted for the un-sponsoring company to include its advertisements in the event. From a theoretical perspective, Ambush marketing refers to a company’s attempt to capitalize on the goodwill, reputation, and popularity of a particular event by creating an association with it, without the authorization or consent of the necessary parties. The word “ambush” as used in the expression Ambush marketing, means “an attack from a hidden position” and is derived from the old French verb embuschier, having the meaning “to attack by hiding in wood” – deployment of persons in hiding to make a surprise attack.

Ambush marketing is an emotionally-charged phrase that refers to the practice of appearing to align a brand with an event for which that brand has not paid for the right to be a sponsor. Probably this practice had existed in even before 1984, but the sheer volume of money involved and the worldwide attention given Olympic events have led many to view the 1984 Olympic Games as the origin of Ambush marketing.

Fuji won the rights to be an official sponsor of the 1984 Olympic Games, its rival Kodak ambushed the event by responding to Fuji’s official sponsorship rights subtly by purchasing extensive advertising during the broadcast of the games! Although Fuji was the official sponsor, many viewers saw Kodak’s ads and mistakenly assumed that Kodak was the sponsor.

Some ambush campaigns flirt with the law; others clearly break it. Yet, the value of these sponsorships ensures someone will be planning an attack on a corporate sponsor’s exclusivity. If you can get your brand in the broadcast or media images or even in the news broadcasting of the event, many viewers will not recall the sponsor’s ads, they might not even bear in minds who’s the official sponsor and why they have sponsored the event; instead they might recall the ambusher’s ads if they are trickily placed. We need to remember here that often an ambusher enjoys a better position than the official sponsors.

Another glaring example of Ambush marketing is the Barcelona Olympics in 1992; in this event American Express literally destabilize Visa’s Olympic sponsorship. American Express ran ads dodging and breaking the law. They ran very cheeky ads that said, “You don’t need a visa to visit Spain.” Of course, Visa dragged American Express later in the court.

While the legal fraternity still does not have a dictate on Ambush marketing, companies use it as a promotional tool and seem to enjoy its positive effects. The ambushers often gain as much mileage as the event’s official sponsors. Although ambushers rub on the wrong shoulders of the sponsors the wit and astuteness in some cases cannot be ignored. The 1996 World Cup tournament of cricket which was played in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka was sponsored by ITC and also Coca-Cola. It seems Coca-Cola paid around Rs 40 crore for the privilege, but PepsiCo defiantly stole the limelight with its tagline ‘Nothing official about it’!

Most Ambush marketing campaigns are short lived. In the recent times, i.e 2010 we witnessed a conflicting promotionalD campaign between Hindustan Unilever’s and P&G’s shampoo brands, Dove and Pantene.

P&G was planning to unveil their new Pantene Shampoo on 1st Aug 2010 and kept using tagline “A mystery Shampoo” in their entire pre-launch advertising campaign. But, Hindustan Unilever ambushed the campaign by placing an adjoining hoarding with the tagline “There is no mystery, Dove is the No. 1 shampoo.” thus ambushing Pantene’s prelaunch campaign. HUL’s swift, mischievous response to the ‘mystery’ of P&G was in true sense a tongue-in-cheek respond. Ambush campaigns are carried on parody and spoof.

Ambush marketing strategy has been on a rise since the last few years. Nokia had spent a big fortune to sponsor Shahrukh Khan’s exclusive premier of his film ‘Ra.One’ at PVR cinema in Delhi, Few minutes prior to the premier Samsung’s advertisement were flashed on the screen. In another similar incident in Bengalore, Samsung stealthily stationed cabs painted with Samsung Omnia advertisement right outside Nokia Stores and this was right after Nokia started its Lumia cab marketing drive.

Can Ambush marketing be legalized? Senior marketing practitioners view it as direct efforts of a party to weaken rival’s efforts of getting footage in an event. It is believed to be the biggest risk for advertisers seeking sponsorships at any events. Ambush marketing is also looked upon as commercial theft. Ambush marketers simply develop a creative advertising campaign around the event, by not using the event logo or trademark. They capitalize their association with the event without paying for the “official sponsor” status. The Pepsi hot air balloon flying above Sharjah, on the day of the Coca-Cola Cup final, is one such instance. Many high profile marketers have used the ambushing tricks which are proven to be perfectly legal. For a company which sponsors the event controlling the entire event becomes a costly affair; to control every ad outlet associated with an event is difficult for the sponsor because in any event there are too many gaps that competitors can purchase. Furthermore, many sponsorship contracts do not tackle legal loopholes thus creating gaps for the competitors to make a backdoor entry.

There is no doubt that the practice of Ambush marketing is an unethical business practice, and that it calls for stringent rules and regulations to protect the intellectual property protection. On the other hand, it may be argued that it is each corporation’s free right to advertise during entertainment event, sports events, prominent seminars or workshops which involve national pride, it is unjust to a corporation that enters into agreements with the event organizers and pays millions to acquire exclusive rights to advertise, and corporations that have not paid officially to also enjoy the same benefits. It is only fair to put a cost on acquiring a right of association especially when the benefits accrued far exceed the initial cost. But, since a major chunk of any games/event budget comes from corporate marketing sponsors, broadcast rights fees, and royalties from official merchandise licensees. Event organizers should educate the public about the basics of intellectual property helping the fight against Ambush marketing and battle against trademark infringement.

The most crucial challenge for businesses is to create new customers while maintaining the old ones. Traditionally, successful branding serves the purpose of creating and maintaining such differentiation to the benefit of the consumer, the retail channel, and the producer or owner of the branded product or service. However, the forces of change as mentioned above make the task much more dreadful – to serve a national, regional or a global market, and yet ideally serve each market as if it has a single consumer. In such volatile situation Ambush marketing can impede the promotional effort of a sincere sponsoring organization.

But let’s except a fact; in marketing wars “Everything is fair” Ambush marketing is going to stay on, may be in different styles and with different approaches.

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I am a Professor of Strategic Management. I am a blogger. Writing posts on verity of topics is my pa