Ambushed and Targeted: The New Game of Marketing

Ambushed and Targeted: The New Game of Marketing

It’s summer time which means that days are a bit slower, the tv is running a bit longer, and social media is a bit more active. With plenty of sporting events to watch – from the World Cup to Wimbledon – more and more people are being targeted and exposed to the new game of marketing and advertising.

Merely flipping through the sports channels exposes a viewer to countless methods of marketing – whether it be in the form of NASCAR drivers covered in logos, or quiet golf players wearing a Nike Dri-FIT polo. Even in more subtle instances, such as when a player habitually brings his or her Gatorade bottle into a press conference, it is considered marketing in the eyes of the companies being promoted and, even more so, in the eyes of their competitors. It’s all there! This is perhaps most evident with the introduction of ambush marketing and programmatic advertising – two hot topics in the game of advertising which may in fact be transforming marketing into a much more hostile, yet competitive environment.

The concept of ambush marketing is defined as the practice of promoting a brand through slick means at an event or other platform that is sponsored by a competing brand. For example, at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Bavaria beer sent a group of girls dressed in short orange dresses that had the company’s logo to the stadium causing fans and cameras to turn their attention towards them even though Budweiser was the official beer of the World Cup.

Similarly, a practice is going on in the digital and online realms through programmatic advertising, which is understood as the digital curtailing of advertisements to match potential buyers through automated means. This is why a user in New York would see a clothing company’s promotion for their winter line, and a user in Miami would see an advertisement for the same company’s beachwear collection even if they are on the same, unrelated website. It’s all targeted and also explains why you might see a health insurance advertisement after googling your current symptoms. Programmatic advertising  also works to send users emails from a retailer that a user is subscribed to for products that you may have searched for without even being on that particular retailer’s site. It even goes as far to cross potential advertisements across all of your devices whether it’s your laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Plus, this practice is making its way to social media and television. Digital overtaking?

So what do we make of all of this? Are these practices illegal? No they’re not… or at least not yet.

In the case of ambush marketing, some sporting events have created rules against it. Wimbledon, in particular, has a long standing tradition of limiting advertising on the grounds in an effort to preserve its ties with sponsors. It has to protect contributors such as Evian, the official water of The Championships, along with its own image as a highbrow tournament that attracts globally renowned celebrities and members of the royal family. Even then, that hasn’t stopped rival companies from handing out free water bottles and other handouts to unsuspecting fans. As this becomes a more common practice, Wimbledon and other events have made it clear that should such activities take place they would not hesitate to remove the perpetrators from the grounds or confiscate such items from fans.

With programmatic advertising, consumers have noticed that they are being “tracked” and have adamantly opposed such methods from being used. That has also given way to more secure browser usage, and “Do Not Track” campaigns. It has even caused a stir from within the field of marketing as a tool that performs well for direct response, but stifles branding objectives and advancement of company recognition.

More than ever, consumers and marketers should be aware of these means as they can be destructive of traditional means of marketing, but innovative in getting a particular brand noticed. Nevertheless, both ambush marketing and programmatic advertising have created rifts between consumers, marketers, and competing companies as it does work wonders for one company at the expense of another. As the legality of such practices is questioned, and as companies continue to develop creative ways to use these tools, it is important to be aware of them as they are here to stay and are sure to become more developed in the future.


All sources are linked above for reference.