Ambush marketing, or the unexpected takeover of a sponsored event by an unauthorised brand, appears to be “growing in prevalence and sophistication”, according to a new paper in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

Nicholas Burton (Brock University/St. Catharines in Ontario, Canada) and Simon Chadwick (Salford University in the UK) asserted in their research that this marketing technique dates back over three decades, but is now gaining ground.

“The practice appears to be growing in prevalence and sophistication, heightened by the growing marketing value and presence of events such as the Super Bowl or the Olympic Games,” they argued.

A case in point: a soccer player scores a goal in a critical match sponsored by a major brand. In celebration, he removes his team’s jersey to reveal the oversized logo of a product that has a tie-up with the individual athlete, but not the event.

“The competitive space around major sporting events is fertile territory within which ambushing can flourish,” the two academics argued.

“Not all sporting events are protected by specific legislation; in its absence, event organizers have become largely reliant on internal policing measures in order to mitigate the threat of ambushing.

“Although some critics take the view that ambushing is immoral, this has not been a deterrent to the growing number of ambushers, their ambushing strategies, or the marketing consultancy industry that has grown up around it.”

In Ambush Marketing Is Dead! Long Live Ambush Marketing! A Redefinition and Typology of an Increasingly Prevalent Phenomenon, the scholars argued that rights-holders and brands can fight back against ambush tactics.

“Rather than the somewhat aggressive and targeted nature of the ambushes perpetrated in ambushing’s early years, however, there now is a growing sophistication in ambushing as organizations and brands learn what it is, what it can achieve, and how it should be organized,” the scholars said.

“In this age of second-generation ambushing, the proliferation and growth of different types of practice in ambush marketing is apparent.”

The advertising typicality paper forms part of a “What We Know About Sports Sponsorships” section of the current edition of JAR.

Sourced from WARC