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What is Ambush Marketing?

  Ambush marketing can be defined as a marketing strategy wherein the advertisers associate themselves with, and therefore capitalize on, a particular event without paying any sponsorship fee. The Macmillan English Dictionary defines ambush marketing as a marketing strategy in which a competing brand connects itself with a major sporting event without paying sponsorship fee. According to McCarthy, ambush marketing is a type of marketing by a company that is not an official sponsor of an event, but which places advertisements using the event, to induce customers to pay attention to the advertisement. From a theoretical perspective, ambush marketing refers to a company’s attempt to capitalize on the goodwill, reputation, and popularity of a particular event by creating an association with it, without the authorization or consent of the necessary parties.

1984 – Kodak Ambushes Fuji – Ambush Marketing Is Born

Fuji won the rights to be an official sponsor of the 1984 Olympic games, leaving Kodak out in the cold. However, Kodak responded by purchasing extensive advertising during the broadcast of the games. Although Fuji was the official sponsor, many viewers saw Kodak’s ads and mistakenly believed Kodak was a sponsor too.

Since then, sponsorship contracts and competitor tactics have escalated in a constant battle to maintain the value and integrity of sponsorships while allowing for free trade and creative advertising.

Some ambush campaigns flirt with the law; others clearly break it. Yet, the value of these sponsorships ensures someone will be planning an attack on a corporate sponsor’s exclusivity. If you can get your brand in the broadcast or media images or even in the news surrounding an event, many viewers will not remember why you were there, but simply that you were.


Nike is set to test the limits of the Olympic rules on ambush marketing, launching a global TV campaign featuring everyday athletes competing in places around the world named London.

The sports brand, which is not an official sponsor of the International Olympic Committee or the London 2012 Olympics, is to launch its “Find your Greatness” campaign in 25 countries timed to coincide with the opening ceremony on Friday.

Nike’s campaign is clearly designed to cash in on Olympic fever and get one over on arch-rival Adidas, which has paid tens of millions of pounds to be an official London 2012 global sponsor.

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