What Are the Best Tips for Ambush Marketing?

Osmand Vitez

Ambush marketing is the practice of associating a company with an event with purchasing sponsorship rights. This is typically a predatory practice that events do not care for, especially major international sporting events. Best tips for ambush marketing include purchasing airtime on television or radio play around the event, setting up stands or selling booths near the event and using graphics or pictures that look similar to the event’s logo. Though companies often engage in these marketing strategies, it can be a dangerous legal minefield. If the company’s marketing infringes on the event or copyrighted logos, a company may be liable for fees and penalties.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

Many major events air their games or other activities on television and radio programs. Companies may be able to purchase airtime for their commercials to promote products, capitalizing on the association factor of marketing. While the company is unable to directly reference the event, consumers may believe the marketing company has some association with the event. Ambush marketing must be free from direct logos or other identification that makes it look like the company actually has some association with the event. Companies can also conduct heavy marketing campaigns leading up to the event that increase the association factor.

Street marketing is another ambush marketing tactic. Companies can place physical booths or other workers near the event location. While some areas immediately around the event may not be available, other areas close by will certainly be available. Companies can place signs and other advertisements that attract attendees’ attention. Street vendors may also be mobile, moving up and down streets near the event; this allows the company to cover more ground for ambush marketing.

Advertisements may work better in ambush marketing when a company uses a closely designed theme or logo. While companies must be careful to not encroach on copyrights or other protections, near copies are possible. Companies can place these logos in commercials placed on television commercials or signs around the event. Most of these near copies include the company’s own logo or marketing tool, increasing the awareness of the company with the event. The ultimate purpose of this marketing technique is to distract consumers away from the event in order to promote the company’s products.

Two downsides to ambush marketing are increasing sponsorship costs and lawsuits from trademark infringement. When companies do not purchase the event sponsorships, the event managers must compensate by charging higher fees. As mentioned earlier, copying trademarks too closely can result in trademark infringement.

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Discussion Comments


I actually notice when companies do this and it makes me less likely to buy the product, most of the time. It just seems like they are trying to hard, without being willing to go the whole way and just shell out for a license. I mean, either they will make the money back or they won't.

But, every now and then I see an ad or whatever, that's obviously making a joke about the event and that would never be able to do that if they were an official sponsor.

If they do it tastefully, but are still funny, or make a good point, I'll think better of them.

I guess it's the same kind of judgment you have to make with all kinds of advertising though.


I'm not surprised that this exists, although I'm not sure it would make me feel any better about the product if I found out about it. I know that some events charge a very large licensing fee in order to use their branding.

It's probably one of the reasons only a handful of companies ever sponsor the really large events, like the Olympics. No one else can afford it which leads to a lot of ambush marketing in sports.

Of course, I'm sure they all get back what they put in to it, or what would be the point?


Sometimes even just using the right color combination will associate your company with the event in question. I know that there are certain color combinations that I just automatically associate with particular brands, but those brands don't own the color combination.

For example, the other day I saw a black car, with a flowing white stripe down the side and I realized that with the red brake like it looked like Coke Zero colors.

You have to get the colors just right though, and maybe add something else that's similar (like the flowing stripe was) or the effect doesn't work. After all, red, white and black could be for a lot of things, but with a particular kind of red and that flowing stripe it put me in mind of that brand straight away.

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