Ambush Marketing (parasitic or ambush): What exactly is it and known examples

Ambush marketing is a demand generation strategy that takes advantage of the advertising actions of other brands or sponsors to brand itself. We are going to detail what ambush marketing is , how many different types there are and some examples of this highly criticized practice.     





What is ambush marketing 

Ambush marketing (also called parasitic marketing or ambush marketing) is a type of aggressive marketing in which a brand benefits from the views of a target audience that did not originally come to it .     

The purpose is simply to generate impact and expectation by opportunistically usurping the place originally occupied by another company or sponsor.  

And this is where widgets come into the picture  . In computing terms, a widget is a standalone version of an application that runs in parallel in the graphical interface of an operating system. The user can view a small set of data in the widget without needing to run the “full version” of the application.    

This strategy takes advantage of the impact that media events have on the audience, and they take advantage of that expectation to enter them in a more or less ingenious way. The result of this practice is as effective as it is dubiously ethical, since the brand gains visibility at the expense of the demand generation exercise that others have done.  

Types of ambush marketing 

direct ambush

This type of ambush marketing usually takes place around massive events, in which a brand “attacks” the real sponsor of the event, managing to confuse the audience with false claims.  

It also happens when a brand tries to establish a connection with the event , even if it is not officially sponsoring it (that is, it has not paid a cent for the sponsorship). This makes this practice not only frowned upon, but also illegitimate. 

Direct ambush also consists of usurping the original logo of a brand or event, and using it with related symbols or messages. The user is confused and wrongly associates the sponsors.  

indirect ambush

Indirect ambush consists of making subtle suggestions to an event or brand without violating intellectual property or legally usurping sponsorship, but confusing the public anyway .    

By creating symbols, messages or logos that closely resemble the official ones , it is possible to confuse a consumer who, most likely, associates concepts that do not have the previously agreed upon (and paid for) advertising relationship. 

Examples of ambush marketing 

One of the most pioneering cases of indirect marketing ambush was the strategy used by American Express to take advantage of the sponsorship obtained by Visa for the Barcelona ’92 Olympic Games. One of its television advertisements collected images of Barcelona and ended with the slogan “you don’t need a visa to visit Spain” (referring to its main competitor in a subtle way).      

As an example of direct marketing ambush, we go back to the 2010 Soccer World Cup, played in South Africa: in the match between the Dutch and Danish national teams, 36 women dressed completely in orange and located next to the Dutch fans went perfectly unnoticed while promoting Bavaria beer to the astonishment of Budweiser , one of the official sponsors of that championship. 

As we have seen, ambush marketing is a strategy that is sometimes aggressive, sometimes subtle, creative and ingenious, but undoubtedly of dubious legitimacy, since it takes advantage of the efforts invested in marketing by third parties to advertise without hardly investing any money.