1984, the year that George Orwell wrote about, the year in which Macintosh revolutionized the world of personal computers, the year which is legendary in more than one way. It is also the year in which “Ambush Marketing” concept was born. Before 1984, every Olympics that was hosted had a string of sponsors taking the number up to 628 at one point. In short the Olympic officials thought it was diluting the brand image. So in 1984, for the Los Angeles Olympics, only a set of sponsors were selected making the brand that sponsored selective and prestigious and at the same time opening the door to ambush marketers.

The term “Ambush Marketing” was first coined by the marketing guru, Jerry Welsh. It is defined as a covert marketing strategy in which rival companies ambush an event officially sponsored by a competing company for exposure. That in simple terms means hogging the limelight away. While the legality still stands under consideration, it sure is an entertainment for the audience.

1)      1984, when it all started – Kodak vs Fujifilm
Fujifilm won the official sponsorship in the Camera category during the Olympics in LA. But Kodak, its long standing market enemy, had to ge      t back at Fujifilm. So it signed a deal to sponsor the broadcasts of Olympics. And as the broadcasts had a much larger audience than the live events had, Kodak played its own ads during the airing. In addition to this, Kodak also sponsored the US track team. Due to the mass exposure Kodak got as a result of this, people thought it was the official sponsor and not Fujifilm.

2)      Nike- The Goddess of Ambush Marketing

Reebok paid over $20 million to be the official sponsor of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. But Nike left no stone unturned to show who’s the boss. Every billboard in the city was plastered with Nike ads, there was a Nike building built overlooking the Olympic Park and Nike was the heart and “sole” of many athletes! And anyone who has seen the games could not forget the golden Michael Johnson shoes that bore the famous swoosh logo.

3)      The Creative Ambushers- BMW vs Audi

‘Tis the story of two “rivalen” from Germany. One of their epic face offs took place on billboards. Audi put up a billboard saying:-
“The entirely new Audi A4. Your Move, BMW?”

And BMW came back with one of the wittiest repartee

4)      David vs Goliath, Samsung vs Apple
Who cares what the courtroom battles resulted in, Samsung won when it came to the street fights! When Apple was scheduled to launch its iPhone 4S, Samsung rented a pop-up store mere meters away from the Sydney Apple store to sell Samsung Galaxy S2. It also offered a $2 discount to the first 10 customers. Some people who would have otherwise stuck to the Apple queue got tempted to join the queue for the Samsung phone.

5)      The best at Last- Bavaria Beers

During the 2006 FIFA world cup, Bavaria Beers distributed free orange leeuwenhosens (Orange being the color of Dutch) to scores of people on the day of match between the Dutch team and Ivory Coast. FIFA authorities had anticipated the attack and asked the people in the orange leeuwenhosens to disrobe and these people watched the match in their underwear. By making this epic mistake of forcing people to watch a match with no clothes on, FIFA helped garner much more publicity for the Bavaria beers whereas the event was officially sponsored by Budweiser.

This article has been written by Ankita Jena, PGP-1 student at IIM Indore.

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