Party crashers and wedding crashers may be fodder for movies and humor but there’s another kind of crasher that’s not generating much fun in the world of event sponsorship. These are brands that crash whatever event happens to be taking center stage, rolling out campaigns around the event without paying the official sponsorship fees. They’re called, “ambush marketers.” While Adidas is the sponsor of the World Cup soccer tournament, Nike is making news for its “Write the Future,” campaign that has generated more than 16 million views on YouTube. Similarly Coke is a sponsor but Pepsi got the love for its video campaign, using Akon’s “Oh Africa.”
Both Nike and Pepsi feature famous soccer players (including one named Kaka), who already have contracts with their brands. Both brands used locations and people in South Africa to communicate the essence of World Cup soccer. And they’re not the only ones. Dutch Brewery, Bavaria sent 36 blonde women in miniskirts – they were ejected from the stadium. A small South African airline made a video featuring stadiums, flags and those annoying vuvuzelas, dubbing itself, “Unofficial National Carrier of You-know-What.” But everyone knew what, and they didn’t like it so the airline was forced to cancel its unofficial marketing.
Such brand crashing is nothing new, Kodak and American Express are among a slew of other companies that have indulged in ambush marketing. Whether it’s the Olympics, Super Bowl or some other big gig, there are sponsors and there are crashers. It could be said that this is how the games are played. But it is also said that the best defense is a good offense. Sponsors can protect themselves with rules and detailed contracts but also by using the very tools that ambush marketers employ. New Zealand’s Minister of Sports, plans to enact laws against ambush marketing for upcoming rugby and cricket championships. Who ever imagined a Minister of Sports?
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