What is ambush marketing? Is it really worth it?


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Ambush marketing is based on the virility caused by a major event. The principle is as follows: to monopolize the attention that consumers have for the sponsors of such an event. And the brands are having a field day: even Pepsi, Audi, or even Samsung have already tested it. However, everyone has their own method: you can opt for a direct, frontal and explicit approach, or choose the subtle and indirect way. So, what are the workings of this marketing technique, and above all, is it really worth it? Our summary table of the advantages and disadvantages of ambush marketing will answer this question.

Ambush marketing: definition

What does this marketing practice, often seen and reviewed in sporting events, consist of? The scientific literature defines it from the point of view of brands. For the latter, the objective is to be associated with a major event, without being an official sponsor (Knifer, G., 2013). Thus, it is quite possible to take advantage of the holding of a major event to advertise for free.

This is an advantage not to be underestimated. Indeed, the global sports sponsorship market is worth $57 billion in 2020. In truth, ambush marketing is a legal marketing tactic when not abused. Otherwise, legal action may be taken against your company.

In short, ambush marketing has two major objectives:

  • Stimulate the virility of the advertising message
  • Optimize your brand image

What are the 4 main types of ambush marketing?

Many methods exist today to practice ambush marketing. They fall into two categories: direct and indirect ambushing.

On the one hand, the direct approach is more aggressive. It uses visual and language elements associated with an event or a competing brand. Its goal is therefore to monopolize the attention captured by an official sponsor. This creates confusion among consumers as to the real identity of the event partner. On the other hand, indirect ambush marketing is wiser and less provocative. Here, the indirect approach relies on visual, sound, etc. elements. More subtle ways to capture consumers’ attention.

For more details, find below a detailed presentation of two direct ambush practices, then of two indirect approaches.

The patronage ambush

Sponsorship ambush (or “coattail ambushing”) aims to attract attention by sponsoring the participant of a major event. This practice is borderline legal; you have to know how to find a ghostwriter for my book for happy medium between discretion and brilliance. To illustrate this idea, two examples are worth seeing:

  • 1996, Atlanta Olympic Games: British sprinter Linford Christie and his Puma glasses caught the eye of spectators.
  • 2010 World Cup: 36 spectators were expelled from the stadium on suspicion of illegal advertising for Dutch Bavaria beer. For good reason, its competitor Budweiser was the official sponsor of this World Cup.

Predatory ambush

The predatory ambush is quite aggressive since it consists of directly attacking another mark. We see it when a company explicitly criticizes a competitor’s advertising efforts. As a result, viewers find themselves puzzled: they don’t know who the real sponsor is. The goal is simple: steal market share from the official sponsors of the event in question.

The most telling case of “predatory ambushing” comes from the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994. The ambush marketing campaign pits Visa against American Express. The former sponsors the Olympiads, while the latter tries to steal the show. American Express’ advertising slogan explicitly mentions the name of its competitor.

“You don’t need a visa to go to Norway”: American Express’ advertising is explicit.

Associative ambushing

Here we are entering the field of indirect ambush marketing. In addition, the mark gives the impression that it is associated with a large-scale event. To do this, it uses the communication codes of the sponsors and associates itself with an event on which it has no intellectual property.

In a sense, ambush marketing by association is similar to patronage ambush. However, the difference lies in the fact that in this situation, the visuals, slogans, and names used are unique.

Values ​​ambushing

By taking up the theme and appropriating the values ​​of the sponsor of the event, ambush marketing becomes indirect. Indeed, the unofficial brand takes over the advertising choices of the real sponsor, thus attracting more users and boosting its notoriety.

From a moral point of view, this is certainly one of the most dubious sections of ambush marketing .disadvantages of ambush marketing campaigns

The impact of ambush marketing is difficult to assess. In fact, it has just as many positives as negatives. Its advantages are certain: it is an original and effective way of reaching your marketing target. On the other hand, the negative inclination is there. This technique is not morally valid, and it is risky financially and in terms of the perceived image. The table below summarizes the effects of such a campaign on your structure:


Ambush marketing has found its bearings in many sectors. We obviously find article writing services, but also the automotive industry, and even hardware. The biggest companies in this world have already tried ambush marketing: Pepsi, Samsung, Audi, etc.

World Cup 2014: Pepsi is talking about her

For the 2014 Brazilian World Cup, Pepsi hit hard, and in two stages:

  • Big names in the sport: Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos have both featured in ads for the drinks brand.
  • The same communication codes : Pepsi broadcast an advertising spot almost identical to that of Coca-Cola, to take advantage of the partnership signed between the brand and FIFA

By surfing on the viral character of the Mondale, Pepsi was able to promote its brand without even sponsoring the event.


The Apple-Samsung clash

2011, the iPhone 4S is about to be marketed. The technology event was the most anticipated of the year. Until Samsung spoils the party. The South Korean company opted for the surprise effect, twice:

  • Pop-up store: the brand has set up a few meters from the Apple Store in Sydney.
  • Cut prices: Samsung has used this pricing technique for its Galaxy SII, sold at 2 Australian dollars. As a reminder, the last iPhone then cost nearly 900 dollars.


Audi, BMW and billboards

Sometimes even Audi and BMW, which enjoy the public’s trust, indulge in ambush marketing.

In this case, the latter used billboards as a battlefield. On many occasions, BMW and Audi have railed against each other with billboards to win the hearts of surrounding users

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