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

Why do businesses use ambush?

The majority of ambush campaigns have one aim, which is 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 creative freedom and flexibility.

Brands use various visual forms and wordplay to respond to marketing campaigns created by official sponsors of an event. 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, starting from PPC ads in search results to giant 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 the wrong way, companies can get involved in unlawful actions such as infringing the event owner's trademarks, copyright, and other rights of a particular event. However, if implemented correctly, it can bring several benefits to your business, which some famous brands have proven true.

When developing an ambush marketing campaign without any official right to use an 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 trendy in sports, many actions are directed against this marketing strategy in this industry. These measures can be found in major sports events that aim at protecting exclusive sponsorships and their organizers' intellectual property rights. As a result, these regulations can 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. Let's take a closer look at them.

The advantages are as follows:

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

All marketing methods have drawbacks, and 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 the rights of actual sponsors and partners of an event;
  • relies solely on 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's team aggressively uses various activities to associate themselves with an event without being a 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 an actual 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 diminishes the marketing efforts of the property's owner;
  • self-ambushing means that a brand has sponsorship rights but gets involved in activities not mentioned in the contract.

Let's review self-ambushing in more detail. The situation with the 2008 UEFA European Championship and Carlsberg is a great example. The famous beer brand, an official sponsor, did something not stated in their 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 a suggestion or reference to it. This strategy doesn't include a brand that attacks another brand but allows you to gain exposure.


  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 four real-world examples.
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