Ambush Marketing: How Brands Use it to Steal the Spotlight

Profit is the main objective that all firms want to pursue when developing a marketing plan. However, to grow the customer base, we must first plan how to boost brand recognition.

While competitive rivalry is a significant barrier to marketing strategies, some businesses use it to attract public interest.

Ambush marketing is the practice of taking down one another’s advertising strategies and promotional strategies to distract attention and increase visibility at one advertorial detriment.

??‍♀️What to know about Ambush Marketing

  • Ambush marketing is one brand trying to get ahead of its competitor by ambushing an event/campaign to compete to gain exposure from advertisers. 
  • This form of marketing involves brands stealing attention from competitors to move ahead. 
  • Due to its creative approach, businesses may deviate from the original content, design, etc. 
  • Ambush advertising strategies are witty, inventive, and occasionally impudent.
  • A successful ambush advertising campaign can assist firms in creating and displaying specific brand attributes even if the organization has not previously been well-known to customers.

What is Ambush marketing?

Companies use ambush advertisement, a brand-new strategy, to shift the focus of their products by utilizing the marketing efforts of other companies.

When adopting ambush advertising, marketers specifically make an effort to sabotage the rival’s strategy in an endeavor to boost publicity at the cost of other advertising. 

While sponsorship costs for the events are not the responsibility of advertisers, audiences may nevertheless be made aware of their presence.

Because of this, it is sometimes called coat-tail advertising or predation ambush. The world of event advertising frequently employs ambush advertising methods.

The Ambush marketing and sales concept has undergone numerous revisions over time.

Initially, it meant associating a company with a group or activity without purchasing the rights to draw spectators or merely to counteract the competition.

Because the platform now includes marketing and advertising, it has evolved into a weapon in marketing warfare.

Big brands also use other marketing methods like cross-channel marketing to promote their brands better. 

How it works

The ambush advertising strategy is best for a company to divert customers’ attention.

When a business waits in a covert location to capitalize on the attention of others, it utilizes a marketing plan.

Consider a situation where your organization wishes to use major events, like the World Championships or something similar, to promote your brand but cannot do so due to financial constraints.

What would you undertake to take advantage of that exposure? 

  • You’ll have a deceptive advertising project in mind that will help your business while saving you money on the licenses your competition paid for to be an international brand.

For instance, after Heineken paid and earned the right to be the exclusive beer partner of the 2011 US Open, Stella employed ambush advertising to seize the limelight from Heineken.

In one instance, they plastered their posters across the nearby train station.

  • Advertisers and companies frequently take advantage of others who have spent a substantial chunk of their marketing money on tv commercials, posters, and sponsorships by hijacking their exposure and recognition.
  • Perhaps one of their competitors or any other company not currently in the industry can be the business from which advertisers steal attention. 
  • To clarify things, when businesses X and Y jointly support a gathering or a contest to seem to be the event’s primary sponsor rather than both, firm X discreetly exploits Y’s exposure and launches a marketing campaign. 
  • Company Y will therefore be regarded as having been ambushed by Company X. 
  • On the contrary side, business X is said to adopt ambush business strategies when it uses the assets acquired by another business to advertise itself and boost profit without informing Y.

Ambush advertising operates in this way. Brands are also working on fresh strategies for several other marketing techniques to help their brand succeed, including internal marketing

Types of Ambush marketing

Direct ambush marketing:-

When a business or advertiser deliberately initiates an ambush business strategy to appear associated with an event, this is known as direct advertising.

They may still take the show from rivals even if they don’t have to purchase the rights.

Predatory Ambush 

As you know, a predator is a beast that chases, kills, and devours other creatures.

The situation is comparable to predation ambushing, which occurs when a brand deliberately targets rival companies within or outside the industry in an attempt to get sponsorship opportunities and customer attention through advertising.

The Pepsi-Coca-Cola incident in 1997 serves as an instance of a predatory ambush. Pepsi was the exclusive partner of the 1997 Championship of Cricket and sponsored the match.

The broadcast advertising rights, however, went to Coca-Cola, a Pepsi rival that was always competitive. Due to this behavior, the game’s true funding source was not clearly stated to the public. 

Coat-tail Ambushing 

The long, segmented pieces of fabric that dangle from the rear of a traditional, formal sort of man’s garment are known as the coat-tail.

When a company attempts to associate itself with a function or event through the use of a connection rather than signing on as the event’s title partner, this is known as coat-tail ambushing or the coat-tail impact.

For example, Nike financed a football tournament, whereas Adidas promoted a certain football player that competed in this match. Adidas then thought about adopting the coat-tail ambush strategy.

Property or trademark infringement

When a company utilizes assets, logos, emblems, catchphrases, keywords, or expressions to boost its commercial share, it commits property or trademark violations.

However, its rival, who has made several communication activities, is the one who generates those traits. Ambush marketing inundates adversaries head-on by sabotaging their efforts and baffling buyers.

For example, you must be familiar with the Red Cross as a protean symbol for medical treatment hubs and other healthcare system providers. Nevertheless, it is one example of asset larceny from the Red Cross Organization.


Self-ambush has nothing to do with any rivals or their pursuit of them. On the contrary hand, it occurs whenever an authorized partner acts in a manner that goes beyond the permissions specified in the collaborative partnership.

It is then asserted that the brand employing this behavior is self-ambushing. This kind of ambushing will result in the business committing conduct formerly acceptable for other official sponsors to engage in. For instance, you may feed the populace with perks.

Indirect ambushing 

Indirect ambush marketing is when a company unintentionally associates itself with a sporting event or tournament to boost brand recognition and advertise its goods.

The brands won’t be held liable for sabotaging or demonizing their adversaries in this exertion.

Several indirect ambush advertising procedures include using analogous images, logos, catchphrases, etc., to bewilder, affirming a commercial status at the event’s closest entrance without precisely mentioning the event, or engaging a particular theme from the relevant event.

Pros and Cons of Ambush Marketing

We’ve examined the circumstances under which ambush advertising can succeed, but this strategy has drawbacks.

Advantages of Ambush MarketingDisadvantages of Ambush Marketing
Ambush marketing adds more social value to the name of the brand or business.The ROI calculation is challenging and complex in an ambush marketing strategy. 
This type of marketing strategy is open to various approaches and thus flexible and adaptive.This type of marketing policy demands prompt action and careful planning to be carried on.
Ambush marketing allows companies to launch their businesses without even holding a large-scale campaign. As ambush marketing is based on a rival’s action, it depends on the proper place and time.
It is a unique strategy to jump-start a business. Though effective, this strategy breaches the legal rights of an event’s real sponsors and stakeholders.
This marketing strategy is seen in many shapes and sizes, from cell phone sidebar advertisements to enormous billboards in a metropolis.The ambush strategy uses just the advertisements of rivals to address them.

?Tips for Ambush Marketing

Companies may use this marketing strategy improperly to engage in unauthorized activities, such as infringement of the event manager’s trademark rights, licensing agreements, and other obligations. However, applying it properly can bring your company many benefits, as some well-known brands have demonstrated.

Avoid the following when creating an ambush advertising campaign without having official permission to get an occasion for your publicity:

  • Utilize the events’ real identities, emblems, catchphrases, or advertising;
  • Cite the event’s “Sponsor,” “Affiliate,” or “Supporter” terms;
  • Run contests and provide event passes to attendees.

?Trends and examples 

Audi vs. BMW

Even powerful automobile brands like Audi and BMW, who enjoy the public’s affection and confidence and enormous success and popularity, employ ambush branding in their promotional activities.

These large brands made billboards their battlefield. Audi recognized an opportunity to advertise itself by challenging BMW with provocative billboard advertisements placed just beside BMW’s.

These brands also use international marketing to stay ahead of the game. 

Apple vs. Samsung 

Apple enthusiasts will undoubtedly recall the 2011 launch of the all-new iPhone 4S.

Given that the release of the phone was among the most hyped events of the year, Apple’s competitor Samsung devised a plan to step in and create a pop-up store close to Apple’s outlet in Sydney where it offered Samsung Galaxy SII also for sale at affordable pricing.

Some consumers couldn’t ignore the offer’s appeal and took a new Galaxy rather than a new iPhone home.

Stella Artois in U. S Open 

Stella Artois ran an unexpected ambush promotion strategy at the 2011 U.S. Open (tennis) that befuddled many people.

Just at the Long Island Rail Road stop close to the Billie National Tennis Center, tennis-related posters were shown.

Many people believed that Stella was promoting a tennis match, but Heineken is the U.S. Open’s authoritative financial backer.

FAQs on Ambush Marketing

What is ambush marketing all about?

Ambush marketing is a strategy or campaign by which a business can sabotage a rival company to capture the consumers and boost its market in the process.

How does a company benefit from ambush marketing?

Ambush marketing strategy is a great way to boost brand recognition without a great campaign. 

Is ambush marketing a legal strategy? 

Sometimes ambush marketing campaigns breach the legal rights of the event sponsors and shareholders.

What may be the problems with this marketing strategy?

Companies may be subjected to illegal activities such as infringement, license agreement mishaps, trademark rights issues, etc.

Do large companies implement ambush marketing?

Yes. Companies such as Apple, BMW, Audi, Samsung, etc., have tried to outdo their rival businesses by ambush marketing strategies.

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