Ambush marketing is a strategy that involves a brand trying to associate its products or services with a big event that already has official companies-sponsors. In most cases, it happens during sports events and aims at raising the brand awareness of a particular company that has no sponsorship rights.

Why do businesses use ambush?

The majority of ambush campaigns have one aim — to associate their company with the fame of a certain event without signing a sponsorship contract. Ambush marketing presents a rather unusual approach to creating a marketing campaign and, at the same time, includes full freedom and flexibility.

To respond to the marketing campaigns created by official sponsors of an event, brands use various visual forms and wordplay. Since such campaigns are extremely entertaining, they are more likely to attract the masses and are easy to remember.

With this strategy, companies often employ methods that go beyond the scope of a brand’s established guidelines. You can use ambush marketing in different ways from PPC ads in search results to huge billboards on the most crowded city’s streets.

Now that you know some of the benefits your brand can reap after implementing ambush marketing, it’s time to find out whether it’s lawful to use.

By using this marketing technique in the wrong way, companies can get involved in unlawful actions such as infringing the event owner’s trademarks, copyright, and other rights of this event. However, if implemented correctly, it can bring several benefits to your business which is proven by famous brands.

When developing an ambush marketing campaign without any official right to use the event for your promotion, don’t:

  • use actual names, logos, slogans, or branding of events;
  • mention words “Sponsor”, “Partner” or “Supporter” concerning this event;
  • conduct giveaways and give people tickets to the event.

Since it’s extremely popular in sports, many actions are directed against this marketing strategy especially in this industry. These measures can be found in major sports events that aim at protecting exclusive sponsorship and the organizers' intellectual property rights. As a result, regulations limit the freedom of speech and obstruct brands from promoting themselves with the help of a certain event.

It’s crucial to follow several steps to legally and successfully implement this creative marketing technique without violating various rights. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of ambush marketing if you are considering it for your next marketing campaign.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Ambush Marketing

Like any marketing strategy, ambush advertising has advantages and disadvantages. So let’s take a closer look at them.

The advantages are as follows:

  • cost-effectiveness;
  • improved brand equity;
  • freedom and flexibility;
  • opportunity for startups to jump-start their business;
  • a higher competition that brings lower prices for consumers;
  • creative approach;
  • direct response to a campaign;
  • presented in various forms and sizes starting from a mobile sidebar ad to huge billboards in the city center;
  • companies can go off-script from their initial content, style, etc.

All marketing methods have drawbacks, this approach isn’t an exception. It has the following disadvantages you should be aware of before implementing it:

  • makes it difficult to calculate ROI;
  • requires quick response and detailed planning;
  • relies on time and space;
  • violates rights of actual sponsors and partners of an event;
  • relies solely on the competitors' ads to address them.

Knowing the advantages and disadvantages allows you to decide whether this marketing strategy suits your business. The next step is to determine which type is the best for your brand.

Types of Ambush Marketing

The strategy can be divided into two main types:

  • direct marketing;
  • indirect marketing.

In direct ambush marketing, a brand aggressively uses various activities to associate itself with an event without being its sponsor or partner. There are four types of direct marketing:

  • predatory ambushing is a technique that includes one brand attacking another (an official sponsor of an event) which prevents people from identifying the real sponsor;
  • coattail ambushing is a strategy where a brand aims at gaining exposure by becoming a sponsor of a person who participates in the event;
  • property or trademark infringement is when a brand uses logos, symbols, or phrases of another brand to promote its services that often leads to confusion among customers and discriminates the marketing efforts of the property’s owner;
  • self-ambushing means that a brand has sponsorship rights but does activities that aren’t mentioned in the contract.

Let’s review self-ambushing in more detail. The 2008 UEFA European Championships and Carlsberg is a great example. The famous beer brand, an official sponsor demonstrated activities that weren’t stated in the sponsorship contract. During the tournament, the brand gave out free T-shirts and headbands.

Indirect ambush marketing doesn’t necessarily involve association with an event, but rather tries to align a company through suggestion or reference to it. This strategy doesn’t include a brand that attacks another brand but allows it to gain some exposure from the event.

You know the types now so let’s proceed to several examples.

Examples of Ambush Marketing

Many great brands implement ambush marketing. Let’s look at some of them to grab inspiration.

BMW and Audi

It may be hard to believe, but even such large car manufacturers like Audi and BMW that have the love and trust of the audience, great profit, and popularity, also use ambush advertising in their marketing efforts. Billboards became the battleground for these big brands. Audi saw an opportunity to promote itself by provoking BMW with billboard ads that included sharp slogans placed next to the BMW’s billboard.

Audi and BMW

Source: Branding Strategy Insider

Samsung and Apple

Apple fans, for sure, remember the year 2011, the release of a new iPhone 4S. Since the device launch was one of the most awaited moments of the year, Apple’s rival, Samsung decided to intervene by building a pop-up store not far from Apple’s storefront in Sydney.

To buy a new mobile device, people had to stand in a long line and pay a big sum of money. At the same time, just a few feet away, Samsung was selling its Galaxy SII for an attractive price. So some people didn’t resist such a tempting offer and went home with a new Samsung.

Samsung and Apple

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

To sum it up, knowing one more marketing technique opens you a chance to consider promoting your company in an unpredictable form. Ambush marketing is an approach that inspires brands to create possibly provocative but memorable advertising campaigns.


  1. This article defines the term and uses the Vancouver Winter Olympics as an example.
  2. In this article, you can find examples from famous brands.
  3. This article defines the term and provides 4 real-world examples.
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