Guidelines to follow when considering an Ambush marketing campaign:

  1. Never use any actual names, logos, slogans or branding of events, or any graphics, symbols or signage that might be confusingly similar to the sponsors or event owners.
  2. Try to avoid the use of any pictures, words or symbols that are clearly suggestive of an event or which are intended to refer to it. (during the World Cup 2010, a low budget airline; Kulula got asked by FIFA to pull their advert which featured soccer symbols, a soccer player, flags etc )
  3. Do not create an advert which refers to an event such as the World Cup 2010, but which uses the event in a negative light to promote your products or services. For example sending an email to consumers which reviews South Africa’s World Cup 2010 hosted by FIFA, and then goes on to suggest that readers can get away from all the ‘madness’ with a discounted holiday special using the ‘attached voucher’.
  4. Do not run competitions or promotions that give away tickets to the hosted event as prizes, only unless you have the event owner’s (e.g.: FIFA’s ) permission to do so as this straight away links your brand to the event.
  5. Never use the hosted event’s branding and/or names, logos etc on your product’s packaging if you are not an official sponsor, partner, supporter etc.
  6. Do not use the words ‘Sponsor’, ‘Partner’ or ‘Supporter’ in your marketing campaign in relation to an event, unless you have been granted the rights by the event’s corporate body to do so.

If you follow these guidelines your ambush marketing should be safe from legal penalties, yet if you are unsure rather seek legal advice before the campaign is launched yet some might say that the legal fine for participating in ambush marketing is simply the fee paid to advertise with a mega event and draw publicity as it is a small fee in comparison to buying the rights to become an official sponsor. To gain brand awareness and have a successful ‘ambush’ marketing campaign ad agencies and marketing teams need to be innovative and creative in their approach to their campaigns as the results of a successful campaign are: brand awareness, breaking through the clutter of other advertising messages, ‘link/ties’ to a mega event in the consumers mind without having to pay the heavy fee of being an official sponsor as the line between being an official and unofficial sponsor in the consumers mind is blurred if your advertising approach is right. Another advantage is gaining publicity, Buzz marketing or Word-of-mouth marketing*, exposure and gaining a competitive advantage over your competitors. “Only imagination ultimately limits the possibilities for ambushing, making it difficult for event owners and corporate sponsors to protect themselves from hostile competitive activity”. 2

Ambush strategies or methods that can be used by a company: 5

1) Sponsoring media coverage of the event

2) Sponsoring a subcategory of the event and aggressively supporting that investment

3) Purchasing advertising around the event that may take two distinct forms:

a) Themed advertising or

b) Traditional advertising around the event

4) Sponsoring contributions to the player bonus pools

5) Creating special opportunities, such as giving away licensed souvenirs or trips to the event’s host country, running congratulatory ads, or creating imaginative tie-ins.

As more ambush marketing has occurred over the years and with sponsors paying a large fee for their sponsorship right attitudes to ambush marketing have become more harsh.2 Ambush marketing has been defined as:

“The unauthorised association by businesses with an event through any one or more of a wide range of marketing activities. It is a company’s intentional efforts to weaken, or ambush, its competitor’s “official” sponsorship. It does this by engaging in promotions or advertising that trade off the event or property’s goodwill and reputation, and that seeks to confuse the buying public as to which company really holds official sponsorship rights”. 2

Yet there is a growing understanding that ambush marketing is not an ad hoc activity, but a well planned creative and innovative effort to expose the companies brand and to link the brand to the event and thus gain the benefits associated with being a ‘sponsor’ or weaken the impact of a main competitor who is an official sponsor. Some see it as “neutralising the competitive advantage by confusing the consumer as to who the legitimate sponsor of an event is…There is a weak minded view that competitors have a moral obligation to step back and allow an official sponsor to reap all the benefits from a special event . . . (competitors have) not only a right but an obligation to shareholders to take advantage of such events”.2

Ambush Marketing that took place during the World Cup 2010:

  1. Nike on Adidas
  2. Pepsi on Coca Cola
  3. Bavaria on Budweiser
  4. Kulula on Emirates Airline
  5. Coo-ee on Coca Cola

Strategic Advertising Campaigns: (That reaped the capital rewards from their successful campaigns)


  1. SAB (VS Budweiser)
  2. Nando’s (VS Mac Donalds)
  3. Jockey
  4. FNB
  5. Sibaya


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Campaigns to create brand awareness:

When faced with restrictions by consumers who have a zero tolerance to advertising, other means of creating brand awareness need to be utilised to get your message across to your target audience.

Ambush marketing is an alternative to formal sponsorship and is used by companies that either do not have the funds to be an official sponsor or who could not become one as there is only one official sponsor in each product category. Ambush marketing is an attempt by a company or brand to associate itself with an event or sponsored activity without gaining formal rights to do so.2 FIFA has put into place harsh by-laws to protect its official sponsors from ambush marketing. Yet there is a debate on whether ambush marketing results in a weakening of the impact of an official sponsor’s marketing activities or that ambush marketing is a creative and strategic marketing tactic to try capitalise on a mega event, such as the FIFA World Cup 2010.

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To enable your brand to stand out from competitors and to break through the advertising clutter an Ambush marketing campaign might do just that.

Ambush marketing is when a brand that is not an official sponsor of a specific event, such as the FIFA World Cup 2010 or any other sporting tournament or music festival, carries out marketing activities in an attempt to create an association with that specific event and/or to take advantage of the status or image of the event, without being an official sponsor and thus without paying a sponsorship fee to do so, or without the event owner’s permission.

Event owners or corporate bodies of these mega events such as FIFA, react aggressively to ambush marketing. As they need to protect the value of their own commercial rights in the event, and to protect their official sponsors who pay millions to be a sponsor, especially if the official sponsor is a direct competitor to the advertiser (unofficial sponsor brand).  Official sponsors pay a large sum for the exclusive rights to be officially associated with the event thus any brand that tries to link itself to the event needs to be punished in the eye of the event owner.
Why can ambush marketing be unlawful?


Ambush marketing can infringe the event owner’s trade marks, copyright and other intellectual property rights in relation to the event. This is unlawful and can give the event owner grounds to sue the advertiser, which was evident in the Soccer World Cup Event 2010.
In some countries, creating a false or misleading association with an event can also constitute unlawful or unfair competition and/or it can breach advertising regulations. For example FIFA insisted that South Africa had to put advertising by-laws into place if they wished to host the World Cup 2010 in their country and as it was such an honour to host such an event South Africa obliged with open arms, yet the logic is changing your constitution to suit a corporate body like FIFA is quite a leap considering our country which has more important things to concentrate on than advertising by-laws and suppression of local brand who do not have the finances to be an official sponsor in comparison to the international mega brands.
Therefore it is becoming increasingly common for special laws to be introduced in countries where major events are being held, which give event owners additional protection by making it unlawful to carry out certain ambush marketing activities which would otherwise be permitted under the general law. Sometimes, these laws can even make ambush marketing a criminal offence.1