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Stealing Thunder With Ambush Marketing

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What’s Ambush Marketing? Imagine organizing your birthday party only to get it crashed by your popular classmate. And guess what? He ends up becoming the life of the party! Annoying, but people liked it anyway. 

Well, that’s kinda how Ambush Marketing works. 

No matter the strategy, the end goal of marketing is to increase profits for your company. Ambush Marketing tactics help brands make the most out of events even when they aren’t associated with them. Brands tend to take dibs at their competitors especially if they are the sponsor or partner of the event. This leads to increased brand recognition, brand recall, and eventually profits! 

It may sound a bit unethical and probably illegal, but brands have been creating ambush at events and stealing the limelight from their competitors successfully for decades now. 

Ambush Marketing can be direct or indirect. Indirect Ambush Marketing focuses more on promoting your own brand more subtly, without the strategic intention to attack the competition. Direct ambush marketing, however, can be much more aggressive and brutal. 

Here are the 4 types of direct ambush marketing; 


With the help of smart advertising techniques, predatory Ambush Marketing intentionally attacks the competitor’s attempts of marketing at events they are sponsoring. The advertisements are positioned in a way that confuses the audience about who the actual sponsors of the event are! 


Don’t actually want to become a sponsor of the event but want a safer strategy to establish your brand’s presence there? With a coattail Ambush Marketing strategy, brands associate themselves with events through a link rather than a full-fledged sponsorship. For example, sponsoring a specific player in a sports event that is sponsored by your competition. 

Property or Trademark Infringement 

A teeny-weeny bit risky, but infringement Ambush Marketing tactics have led to brands using their competitor’s logo, tagline, or even branding color palette for their own profits. With a little bit of humor and wit, the tactic can confuse the audience. 

Self Ambushing 

Usually, events have multiple sponsors. Self-ambushing techniques come into play when one of the sponsor brands decides to hijack the marketing attempts of other sponsors of the same event by doing things that are beyond their contract. 

Let’s see how some of the most popular brands around the world tried out Ambush Marketing strategies and ended up acing them! 

When Kodak’s confidence played out well 

1984 Olympics, Kodak started on its strategic marketing plans and ran a series of campaigns that made it evident that they were indeed the sponsors of the event. Fun facts, they weren’t. Kodak smartly bought a TV package in the U.S. that blocked out Fuji films, the actual sponsors of the event, leading the audience to confusion. 

Nike being Nike 

Nike has been attacking multiple competitors and pulling off Ambush Marketing tactics quite successfully. In the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Nike decided to pull off an Ambush Marketing stunt rather than paying for the sponsorship. A variety of tactics including giving out freebies, running campaigns, and even turning a three-storied parking lot into a full-fledged outlet and hospitality center for Olympic spectators led to people forgetting the fact that the official sponsor was Reebok! 

A similar trick was played by Nike on their competitor, Adidas, the sponsor of the 2010 FIFA world cup. Nike ended up sponsoring some selected players and thus made its presence clear in the event without being the official sponsor. 

Pepsico levels up on the rivalry!

It’s evident that Coca-cola and Pepsico’s rivalry has been going on for ages. And the occasional Ambush Marketing tactics pulled off by Pepsi here and there only made it more interesting. The “Nothing official about it” campaign by Pepsi during the 1996 Cricket World cup held in India created history in the Indian market. 

Pepsi also ruined the 2006 Beijing Olympics for Coca-Cola even after they acquired the contract for almost $85 million while spending $400 million on marketing! 

Mercedes Benz crashes a birthday 

Creating ambush at events like the Olympics is something but imagine stealing away all the attention on someone’s birthday? That’s exactly what Mercedes Benz did. 130-year-old Mercedes Benz gave out a very simple and wholesome message for their competitor, BMW’s 100th birthday. The message truly reminded everyone that Mercedes Benz will always be the older brother you cannot beat. 

Ambush Marketing as a marketing tactic needs a lot of strategic planning and of course, a very prosperous budget to carry it out. Thus, naturally, this strategy might not be for every brand out there and usually only massive, established brands do it. But in the end, all that matters is the fact that Ambush Marketing can be entertaining for consumers and help them remember the brand for a very long time!

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