Ambush Marketing

Ambush Marketing

Ran Liu (University of Leeds, UK) and Des Thwaites (University of Leeds, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7357-1.ch005
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The rapid growth in sponsorship throughout the world has been accompanied by a parallel growth in ambush marketing practice over the last two decades, particularly in the context of major sporting events. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce the concept of ambush marketing, discuss the moral and ethical issues surrounding ambush practice, and provide solutions and recommendations in dealing with ambushing issues from the perspective of different parties. This chapter begins with an introduction of ambush marketing and explanation of how it has evolved over time. The different types of ambush marketing strategies are then identified, followed by an exploration of the effectiveness of ambush marketing and its influence on sponsorship activity. The main focus then turns to the moral and ethical debate on ambush marketing among events owners, sponsors, and ambushers. Finally, the future development of ambush marketing is discussed and suggestions are made in terms of how to cope with the ambushing issues in the future.
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Ambush marketing, also known as “parasitic marketing” or “guerrilla marketing,” occurs when non-sponsors attempt to associate themselves with an event and gain benefits of being official sponsors (Meenaghan, 1996). It has increasingly been planned and used due to the high sponsorship fees and the restriction imposed by category exclusivity of sponsorship rights. It has evolved from direct ambushing aimed at directly attacking official sponsors or deflecting the public’s attention away from an official sponsorship, to broader associative ambushing focused on overall capitalization on the value and benefits associated with an event (Chadwick & Burton, 2011). Whether ambush marketing is an immoral or imaginative practice has been debated among event owners, sponsors, and ambushing companies, and revolves around the self-interest of the various parties (Crompton, 2004; Meenaghan, 1994).

Ambush marketing can be successful in creating confusion and building brand awareness among consumers. Ambushers can even outperform official sponsors under certain circumstances, for example, when official sponsors fail to adequately exploit their sponsorship rights through other promotional tools to leverage the sponsorship. Therefore, it has become the main concern for event owners and sponsors due to its distinct threats posed on future sponsorship revenue and subsequent event financial viability. As a result, in order to maintain event integrity and protect official sponsors from attacking by ambushers, a variety of measures are developed by event owners and sponsors in order to combat ambush marketing attempts. However, owing to the imaginative and innovative nature of ambush marketing, no matter how strict the measures are, ambush marketing will inevitably be planned and practiced. There is always a way to ambush.

This chapter aims to provide an overall understanding of ambush marketing and discusses the moral and ethical issues surrounding it. Upon completion of this chapter, the reader should be able to:

  • Define the term ambush marketing and appreciate the nature of ambushing activities;

  • Understand the trends and developments in ambush marketing;

  • Identify and understand the different types of ambush marketing strategies;

  • Explain the effectiveness of ambush marketing and how it works;

  • Understand the counter-ambushing strategies adopted by event owners and sponsors;

  • Argue the moral and ethical issues of ambush marketing from different parties’ perspectives;

  • Understand the future development of ambush marketing and provide recommendations for event owners and sponsors on how to deal with ambush marketing issues.

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