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25 Ambush marketing examples

25 Greatest Ambush Marketing Examples that you will love

In 1993 Jackson had a multi-million dollar contract with Pepsi and was supposed to perform at a concert in Thailand, but postponed the
concerts pleading illness and dehydration from the heat. Rival Coca-Cola almost instantly took a shot at Jackson by running a print ad
in Bangkok which said, “Dehydrated? There’s always Coke.”

This is one of the early instances of Ambush marketing

At a 2002 rugby match between New Zealand and Australia, two streakers caused fury amongst the spectators when they interrupted the game, wearing nothing but the Vodafone logo.Yes its ambush marketing gone too far with the vodafone CEO being forced to issue an apology.

Gone are days of 4Ps of marketing, companies are using quick ambush tactics to get noticed and earn that critical mindshare.Now lets take a deep dive at 25 great ambush marketing examples from across the world

1.Heineken Vs Steinlager

Perhaps the most well-thought-out ambush campaign is the Steinlager “We believe” campaign. “Heineken was the official sponsor of the Rugby World Cup and Steinlager were sponsoring the All Blacks. Heineken was closely monitoring the situation knowing fully well that Steinlager would ambush. But, what Steinlager did was pure gold. They reintroduced their white can and positioned it as a lucky charm. The last time the All Blacks won the RWC, the can was white. So the spectators sneaked in the white can as their lucky charm. Steinlager won big in sales, awards and the All Blacks won the World Cup

2.Burger King -Never Trust a Clown

Burger King used the return of the clown in the horror film IT to its own advantage at the German pre-premiere last month

Fast food giant Burger King found an classic  way to Ambush rival McDonald’s , by “hi-jacking” a horror film.

The Moment was the return of the clown in the horror film IT at the German pre-premiere last month.

After viewers had their share of horror, BK projected on the screen the simple message: “The moral is .. never trust a clown,” followed by the Burger King logo taking a dig at their rival Ronald Mcdonald.

BK says the film, based on Stephen King’s novel, has become their longest ever ad, and has used it to take a swipe at McDonald’s in the process.

This is an  all  time classic Ambush marketing example and goes right into top of my list

3.Rona Catches apple off-guard

Rona paints catches Apple Offguard

The picture says it all. This happened in Canada. A local paint brand saw an opportunity in outdoor creative of Apple. They put up a banner below Apple’s billboard & it looked as if the paint was falling into buckets. The text on their banner said: “We recycle leftover paint.”

4.Fiat Ambushes Volkswagen

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This is another example of great ambush marketing. When employees of Fiat spotted a Street View vehicle driving by, one of them took it as an opportunity to score over the arch rival. So he jumped into a Fiat 500 and followed the car for about 45 minutes to till he reached  Volkswagen’s headquarters.

As it neared the Volkswagen HQ, Fiat staffer shot ahead, went up on the driveway and parked the car right in front of entrance. Then he waited out until the street vehicle took the photo.

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Due to google delay of one year in update, this Fiat Picture remained in google street View for an year which was a huge heartburn for Volkswagen.

That is why you need to hire smart employees.What say?

5.WePay Ices paypal

Startup  WePay checkmated paypal by doing the unthinkable.During the time that PayPal was paying the price for “freezing” customer accounts, and amidst a PayPal developer conference, WePay left gave them a little gift. Money was frozen inside a massive chunk of ice and wheeled it to the front doors of the conference with a message: “PayPal freezes accounts – unfreeze your money”.This is another classic  ambush marketing example

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6.Audi vs BMW ,Mercedes v/s Jaguar- FamousCar Wars

Car wars demonstrates some excellent Ambush marketing examples

Perhaps one of the most popular example is the 2009 war between Audi and BMW in Santa Monica.

BMW ran a Rally to which below communication message was crafted

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Audi replied with the message

Chess? No Thanks I’d rather be driving.”

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Audi then issued a challenge to BMW with an image of the Audi A4, and message : “Your move, BMW.”

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BMW immediately took a hoarding just beside, which was 3 times the size of AUDI Billboard. The message was “Checkmate”.  They have featured 3 series BMW in the billboard

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Audi replied with its message”Your pawn is not match for our king”

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Later BMW moved it’s billboard to some other place and the billboard ad war came to an end.

In 2006, BMW won the prestigious World Car of the Year award.BMW came up with a new communication which said

Car ambush marketing examples

“Congrats to Audi for winning south african car award of year 2006 from the world car of year 2006”

Audi reacted with their communication “Congrats to BMW for winning world car of year 2006, from the winner of Six consecutive Le mans 2000-2006

& then  subaru a new player jumped in

it said well done Audi & BMW for winning beauty contest,from the winner of international engine of Year

But final nail in the coffin was from Bentley with this ad featuring its founder

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Jaguar Vs Mercedes

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Jaguar took on mercedes hen in an ad which caught mercedes on wrong foot.Mercedes reacted .Check out the video here

7. Bavaria ambushes 2010 world cup football

In 2010, during world cup football match between Denmark and Holland, 36 girls in mini-skirts wore branded clothes that promoted Dutch beer Bavaria.They were removed from the stadium after being accused of being models of Dutch beer Bavaria attempting to ambush the World Cup and its official beer sponsor, Budweiser.

8.’Beats’ Headphones beats marketing rules at Olympics

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Dr. Dre and his Beats headphones created marketing controversy at the Summer Olympics 2012.

Pre-2016,London Olympics organizers and the International Olympic Committee had strict rules to protect official sponsors who have struck multi-million dollar deals for the exclusive right to exploit their association with the was called as Rule 40. It stated that athletes were not permitted to promote any brand, product or service within a blog or tweet or otherwise on any social media platforms or on any websites. The IOC issued guidance against so-called “ambush marketing” by non-Olympics marketers ahead of the Games.

Beats gate crashed the IOC party .The headphone brand was not an official sponsor of the International Olympic Committee or the London 2012 Olympic Games. Under Olympics sponsorship and marketing rules, it should therefore not get promoted by athletes at the Summer Games.

But Dr. Dre’s company sent some high-profile members of the British team special versions of the headphones decorated with the union flag. Among others, British tennis player Laura Robson and diver Tom Daley have been seen sporting them. Soccer player Jack Butland has even been tweeting about them.

Daley was seen on screen with his Beats headphones ahead of the synchronized platform diving competition on Monday, an event watched by seven million at its peak on the BBC.

According to a report in The Guardian, Robson tweeted about receiving her headphones, although the post now appears to have been removed from her Twitter account as did a Twitter post from Butland, which had said: “Love my GB Beats by Dre.”

Among U.S. stars, Michael Phelps has been seen using the headphones in the Aquatics Center to help block background noise before races and help his concentration.

The ambush marketing initiative came on the heels of a protest – initiated by U.S. athletes, including 400-meter sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross & Dawn Harper, the Olympic 100 meter hurdles champion

In reality, the brand was an unknown brand to many before 2012 Olympics. How Beats gave athletes a free pair of headphones in their countries’ colors and became the talk of the Games is a case study on ambush marketing & one of best ambush marketing examples that we can see “.

9.Paddy Power:The Irreverent brand

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 Paddy Power – the bookmaker has become renowned for its irreverent and cunning approach to sports marketing. For the London 2012 Olympics, it took out a series of provocative billboards which read: “Official sponsor of the largest athletics event in London this year! There you go, we said it”. In parenthesis underneath, the ad admitted that its sponsorship was, in fact, for an egg and spoon race in the town of London in France.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games ordered that the billboards be taken down for breaching sponsorship agreements but Paddy Power dug its heels in, lawyers circled and the campaign was allowed to continue.

Paddy Power wasn’t the only cheeky Irish marketing stunt at the Olympics, with boxer Paddy Barnes holding up a sign with his Twitter handle and the words ‘Open for sponsors’ during the opening ceremony, exposing him to around one billion TV viewers.

10.Nike-Find Your Greatness

Nike  created an ad that showed plenty of running, jumping and diving alongside the word ‘London’ but, cleverly, ensured that they filmed in the UK capital’s namesakes in the US, Norway, Jamaica, and Nigeria.

It was a first that brand like Nike came prepared to spend big money in airing what is essentially an ambush advert


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On a slightly smaller budget, UK bottle shop Oddbins created an Olympics-themed ad which was quite open about the fact the Games can’t be mentioned by went a step further by actively rewarding customers that use the brands of sponsors’ rivals during the Games

Customers wearing Nike trainers, brandishing an iPhone, a bill from British Gas and a receipt for a Pepsi bought at KFC will receive 30% off their purchases at Oddbin

12.I Select

I Select , an insurance company  took a slightly different tack, with Mr iSelect, played by actor Jason Geary, complaining “Every four years it’s the same story.

Companies that have nothing to do with the Games jumping on the bandwagon,” all while performing various Olympic sports, such as swimming, weightlifting and rhythm gymnastics, in the office.

The ad, which premiered during Nine’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony in 2012, has been applauded for achieving great exposure at a fraction of the cost of official sponsors.

13. Stella ambushes US Open

In the  US Open 2011, Heineken was official beer sponsor.  Stella chose the closest station it could to the Bille Jean King National Tennis Centre and blasted the terminal with 15 different Stella Billboards. They made it look as if Stella was sponsoring the tennis event. The ads had tennis themes, with messages like “the top-seeded Belgian,” “your trophy awaits” and “a perfect match.”

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14.UA Ambushes Rio 2016 from Nike

Under Armor’s  released a new 90-sec tvc “Rule Yourself” spot with the Team USA Women’s Gymnastics.

It hit a total of 3 million views & makes pudgy, middle-age men want to do some gymnastics. And while it’s did not achieve the 5.6 million views of Under Armor’s companion Michael Phelps ad, it makes a successful argument in 90 seconds that even the #likeagirl campaign could appreciate.

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15.Puma ambushes IOC with a pair of golden shoes

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Shortly after winning gold medal in 100m sprint in 2016 Rio Olympics.Bolt jolted IOC with his golden shoe

Usain Bolt is the most important sportsman in Puma’s portfolio. And at the 2016 Rio Olympics,  the  Jamaican once again won the gold medal in the 100m sprint. As soon as he had done this he took his golden boot & flashed at media making it one of  Ambush Marketing examples of the highest level

Puma changes its slogan for Bolt

Shortly afterwards Puma’s social media team started came out with posts on the sports brand’s Twitter and Instagram accounts which read: “When you are @Usain Bolt, you are #ForeverFastest”, an alteration of the Puma slogan “Forever Faster”. There was no reference to the Olympics, thereby avoiding problems with IOC lawyers. So no #Rio2016 and absolutely no #Olympics.

16.Visa v/s Master card Face off

At the 1992 barcleona Olympics, Visa’s official sponsorship allowed it to create ads with the tagline: “The Olympics don’t take American Express.” It was an ad which got American express on back foot. American Express retorted with its own ad campaign that said: “To visit Spain, you don’t need a visa.

17.Burger King-Scary Clown Night(classic 2018 Cannes award Winner)
Burger King turned Halloween into its own personal holiday—for tricking McDonald’s.
BK launched a broader stunt, also taking aim at McDonald’s, called #ScaryClownNight. Here they welcomed people to come dressed as clowns (as Ronald McDonald himself) by giving them a free Whopper.

Come as a clown,Eat like a King

This is another classic Ambush marketing example

Ambush marketing examples in India

18.Pepsi V/s coke face off

In the 1996 cricket World Cup held in the Indian sub-continent. Though Coca-Cola was the `official’ sponsor of the event, Pepsi stole the limelight with its `Nothing official about it‘ tagline.

ambush marketing example-pepsi v/s coke

19.Indian Ecommerce Wars:-Flipkart vs Snapdeal

Indian Ecommerce has some good ambush marketing examples.Snapdeal  started the War. It’s was about the Flipkart’s Big Billion Day Sale, on 6th October in leading newspaper TOI. Flipkart had been campaigning about their biggest-sale-ever in India from last few days.

Flipkart vs snapdeal ambush marketing examples

Snapdeal came into the game and attacked Flipkart by taking the place just beside the Flipkart’s advert in the newspaper on the same day. Their ad said, “For others, it’s a big day. For us, it’s no different. Best savings. Gauranteed. Check Snapdeal before you buy

20.Indian airlines war-Jet vs kingfisher vs go air

Ambush marketing examples-kingfisher vs go air

21.Jio Vs Vodafone:-IPL 2017

IPL 2017 saw new entrant reliance Jio taking on main sponsor  vodafone in wankheded stadium.

In a match between Mumbai Indias and Sunrisers Hyderabad at Mumbai’s Wankehde Stadium on April 12, the brand created a ‘Jio’ wave

Reliance Jio got a large number of people to come to the ground with Jio t-shirts and merchandize on and seated them in such a order that together they created a larger than life brand’s logo. It caught everyone’s attention present both on-ground and on-air

22.Jio vs Idea/Voda

While Idea -Voda were celebrating their merger on Twitter , their nemesis Jio which was the real reason behind merger took them

23.With IKEA coming to India in Aug at hyderabad,the Indian furniture market has turned extremely interesting and competitive.IKEA opened its first store in Hyderabad with a huge buzz and traffic blocks.

23.Godrej Vs IKEA

Godrej Interio took on IKEA  with an interesting ambush marketing strategy to target their audience and create noise.

and to top it all a unofficial reply  to same

24.Oneplus vs Mi

24.Mi Vs One plus

Mi took on Oneplus on may 2019 the sidelines of oneplus 7 launch Calling Redmi K20 and Redmi K20 Pro as the flagship killers,they placed outdoors besides oneplus as seen below

25.Pepsi Vs Coke-2019

At the 2019 World cup, Pepsi stole Coca-Cola’s thunder with ambush marketing, even as the latter was the official sponsor. The cola brand roped in 87 year old Charulata Patel as its face. The campaign which features Patel shows her saying ‘Win or lose, fan love is forever

The move reminisces of the infamous ‘Cola’ war, where both the brands relied on ambush marketing

Now that we saw some great Ambush marketing examples, let’s now understand Ambush marketing in detail

What is ambush marketing?

Ambush marketing is a form of marketing where a company tries  to ride on the publicity value of a major event without any financial contribution to the event. This was first coined by marketing guru Jerry Welsh. It is majorly done at major sporting events like the Olympic Games or the world cups and is adopted by rivals of the official sponsors.More often, however, ambush marketing involves more subtle forms of confusing or misleading the public about who are actually sponsoring the event.

Strategy Behind Ambush Marketing

Major Sporting Events like the world cup, Olympic competition and grand prix competitions are the events that are mainly targeted. For 1996 Worldcup cricket event, Coke paid to be an exclusive sponsor of the event. Pepsi released a TVC which said “Nothing official about it”.Finally it confused viewers to think about who was real sponsor of the event. This is the basic premise of Ambush marketing.

Types of ambush marketing

There are basically 2 types:Direct & Indirect

Direct Ambush marketing

Direct Ambush marketing is where a brand directly tries to associate with an event without purchasing official rights as a sponsor

It can be divided into 4 types

  • Predatory Ambushing

Here Direct attack is done on the competitor’s sponsorship of the event thereby confusing the customer. During 1984 winter games, Amex ran a tagline “So if you’re traveling to Norway, you’ll need a passport, but you don’t need a Visa.This enraged the official sponsor VISA

  • Coattail Ambushing

Here an individual or a related event is made means by which exposure of the larger event is being gained.In Atlanta Olympics, Lindford Christie wore a contact lenses at the press conference that had the iconic Puma logo in the pupil. Puma was well covered in the news the following day

  • Property Infringement

Here Trademark of the advertiser or event is being intentionally misused or violated to confuse the consumers. During London Olympics, Local businesses were fined for including words like “gold,” “bronze,” or “summer” in their advertising, as these were considered an infringement on the trademark of its brand.

  • Self-Ambushing

Here the Company which has got the sponsorship violates terms of contract thereby infringing on another sponsor area. In 2008 UEFA European championship, Carlsberg gave out headbands & T-shirts which were not permitted as per terms of contract.

Indirect ambush marketing 

Indirect ambush marketing is where brand tried to indirectly establish an association through a suggestion or reference to the event.It can be divided into 3 types

  • Associative Ambushing

Here there is use of imagery or terminology which are not protected by IP laws to create Illusion of event sponsorship

  • Values based Ambushing

Here a non-sponsor tailors its marketing practices to appeal to the same values or makes the same themes as the event or its promotion, so that audiences interested in the main event will likewise be attracted to the non-sponsor’s marketing

  •  Ambushing by Distraction

This refers to setting of promotional presence near the event, albeit without making direct reference to the event itself, in order to take benefit of the customer attention toward the event

Hope you loved my post. Do let me know your feedback through comments below.Also if you feel any other ambush marketing examples or ambush marketing campaign needs to be added here,Do let me know.Do share among your social networks

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@vivek vasudevan