The current business environment is characterized by intense competitive rivalry and businesses have to undertake aggressive marketing initiatives in order to counter this threat. The importance of marketing in ensuring that a business organization can develop and maintain a competitive edge is growing exponentially.
Corporations are now pouring millions into their promotional campaigns in order to create an image for themselves in the customer mindset. This trend of massive financial resources being thrown into marketing is particularly evident in the area of sports marketing. In this area, massive opportunities exist in terms of public relations events which have global reach.
Thus any corporation that can have its logo associated with events like the Olympics which are broadcast throughout the world stand to gain substantially out of investing in the rights to have its logo associated with the event. This is called corporate sponsorship. However the benefits of corporate sponsorship have led to the rise of unethical marketing practices called ambush marketing.
Ambush marketing is defined to have taken place when a marketer has its products associated with a sports event without having paid for any of the rights to association (cited in Ironside, 2007). Thus the ambush marketer enjoys all the benefits of being a legitimate corporate sponsor without paying a cent.
The trend of ambush marketing has been growing steadily in the last few years as shown in figure 1. As shown in the figure, sports organizers have been experiencing massive revenue losses as result of the phenomenon of ambush marketing which keeps going strong despite efforts to counter the threat.
The threat is particularly detrimental because the actual corporate sponsors have hardly anything to gain by seeking recourse to legal means because courts usually rule in favor of ambush marketers.
This happens because ambush marketers never engage in any activities that could be defined as infringement of intellectual property rights (cited in Meenaghan, 1996). Ambush marketers operate through hints and allusions which do not qualify as infringement of rights in legal vernacular.
As a result corporate sponsors have to devise pre-emptive strategies on their own and this adds to the cost of buying rights to the sponsorship (cited in Uphoff, 2006).
The process of devising counter strategies requires an understanding of the ways and means by which ambush marketers take advantage of their opportunities. However there are so many ways and means in this regard that it is difficult to develop contingency plans for all of them.
There are at least six recognized opportunities which ambushers take advantage of from time to time such as purchasing broadcasting rights to an event or broadcasting time around the time of the event broadcast, sponsoring an event other than the organizing body, purchasing advertising space, thematic advertising and counter attraction (cited in Crompton, 2004).
What all of this means is that if the trend of ambush marketing is allowed to go on unmitigated, it will discourage corporate sponsors from sponsorship spending and major sports events will lose an important source of revenue. Therefore sports property owners have the duty of making ambush marketing difficult and expensive for the competitors of official corporate sponsors.
Aaker, David A. (2004). Strategic Market Management. McGraw Hill/Irwin.
Crompton, John L. (2004). Sponsorship Ambushing in Sport. Managing Leisure, 9, 1-12.
Ironside, Sue. (2007). Combating Ambush Marketing. NZ Marketing Magazine, 26, 26-27.
Retrieved March 15, 2008 from Business Source Elite database.
Kolah, Ardi. (2005). Essential Law for Marketers. Prentice Hall.
Kotler, Philip., and Gary Armstrong. (2005). Principles of Marketing. Prentice Hall.
Meenaghan, T. (1996). Ambush Marketing – A Threat to Corporate Sponsorship. Sloan
Management Review, 38, 103-13. Retrieved March 15, 2008 from Business Source
Uphoff, Boris., et al. (2006). Kick-off to Ambush Marketing at World Cup. Managing
Intellectual Property, 156, 91-92. Retrieved March 15, 2008 from Business Source