Ambush marketing is strategy wherein the advertisers associate themselves with, and therefore capitalize on, a particular event without paying any sponsorship fee to induce customers to pay attention to the advertisement. The IOC describes it as “a planned attempt by a third party to associate itself directly or indirectly with the Olympic Games to gain the recognition and benefits.
“Social media has made ambush marketing easier, simply because of the virality of it,” said Alex Burmaster, vice president of communications for Nielsen. “Some people call it an echo chamber.”
Nike’s effort interrupts the effectiveness of Adidas’ sponsorship that officially associates them as an Olympic partner. The Olympic committee may have banned Nike from advertising about the Games, but it could not stop the world to write about #findyourgreatness, Nike’s campaign. From USA Today to The Guardian to Forbes to the New York Times, Nike has got the publicity they were after despite not paying to be attached to the five rings.
Sports Business Journal reports “Adidas’ sponsorship of the London Games has helped the company close the gap with the U.K.’s market-leader, Nike, narrowing a 3% advantage to 1%, adidas CEO Herbert Hainer said. “We have clearly closed the gap,” Hainer said, adding that the goal is to supplant Nike as market leader in the U.K. by ’15. “I am sure the Olympics has helped already but will help us also over the next 17 days to bring the elements to the consumer that shows them that we are the Olympic brand for all the different sports and not just football.” Adidas this year is projecting a 12-17% increase in its earnings per share, boosting total earnings to more than $925M. Sales are expected to increase modestly from $16.4B in ’11. In addition to the Olympics, it sponsored UEFA’s European Championships earlier this summer. The company signed a reported $100M sponsorship deal with London organizers in ’07. Adidas spent more than $3M to put a wrap featuring its British athletes around the Metro newspaper, which is free every morning and read by millions of people taking the Underground. It also outfitted some 6,000 volunteers working the London Games in jackets, shirts, pants and shoes, and it has extensive out-of-home advertisements highlighting its sponsorship of the British national team. Hainer: “I am pleased with the exposure we have been getting the last few weeks, and what I see in the city.”
Nike generally avoids official Olympic sponsorships, although it always makes a big effort to get its shoes on Olympic feet and uniforms on Olympic bodies including Team USA basketball. As the world watches on computers and televisions the athletes get more focus than the signage at the event, and rumors state Nike having a deal in place for the Brasil games as they have significant interest in the South American market and Adidas will invest in the FIFA World Cup, both events are within a two year span.
This is the official partner list for London.
▪ Worldwide Partners (includes Acer, Atos, Origin, Coca-Cola, Dow, General Electric, McDonald’s, Omega, Panasonic, Proctor & Gamble, Samsung, Visa)
▪ Partners (includes Adidas, BMW, BP, British Airways, BT, EDF, Lloyds TSB)
▪ Supporters (includes Adecco, Arcelor Mittal, Cadbury, Cisco Systems, Deloitte, Thomas Cook, UPS)
Suppliers and Providers (includes Airwave, Atkins, Boston Consulting Group, CBS Outdoor, Crystal CG, Eurostar, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, Holiday Inn, John Lewis, McCann Worldgroup, Mondo, Nielsen Company, Next, Populous, Technogym, Ticketmaster, Trident)
Nike’s Olympic ambushes date back at least as far as the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, with the Randy Newman song I Love L.A. After those games, marketing research found more consumers thought Nike was the official sponsor than Converse, the actual sponsor.
A brief Olympic ambush history from http://www.taylorwessing.com
“At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, whilst Fujifilm was the official sponsor, its rival Kodak sponsored the television broadcasts and the US track team, causing many consumers to believe Kodak was the Official sponsor. The tables were turned in 1988 when Kodak was the official sponsor but Fujifilm sponsored the US swimming team.
In 1992, Nike sponsored Michael Jordan and the US basketball team and, much to the annoyance of Adidas (the official clothing sponsor), Jordan covered up the Adidas logo with an American flag during his medal ceremony.
Nike’s rights to Jordan would be limited: the Olympic Charter prohibits athletes from allowing their image to be used in any form of advertising during the games. In addition, LOCOG has purchased 99% of the advertising space around the Olympic venues and official sponsors will have a first right of refusal.
However, it is hard to see on what grounds LOCOG could complain about the deliberate covering up of a logo; this is a form of “un-advertising” rather than the advertising which the UK regulation seeks to prevent.
During the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Nike (which was not a sponsor), bought up a significant proportion of the billboard space around the venues and built a Nike Village next to the athletes’ village (which was under construction during the Olympics but displayed a very prominent Nike sign). Nike also handed out flags to spectators, which had a far greater visual impact than the footwear of official sponsor Reebok.
Even though Reebok was an official sponsor of the 1996 games, Puma achieved huge publicity when Linford Christie wore contact lenses displaying the Puma logo to an Olympic press conference (which Puma had also sponsored).
The official Olympic airline was a victim of ambush marketing the 2000 Sydney games, when Qantas used the tagline “the spirit of Australia” which was reminiscent of the Sydney Olympic slogan “Share the Spirit”. This led to many consumers believing that Qantas was the official sponsor, to the dismay of the actual sponsor, Ansett Air.”
At the Adidas sponsored 2010 FIFA World Cup Nike made it tough to distinguish which company had made the investment in the event both via advertising and in Johannesburg with Write the Future.
Almost one-third of the online buzz around the World Cup in the month running up to the soccer tournament was focused on Nike, twice as high as rival and official sponsor Adidas AG, according to a Nielsen Co study. Nielsen from May 7 to June 6, making it the most talked about company in relation to the World Cup, mentioned Nike in 30.2 percent of the English-language messages online tracked. Adidas AG was second at 14.4 percent. Nielsen studied English-language World Cup related messages on blogs, message boards, groups, videos and image sites, including Flickr, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
Adidas, Take the Stage or Nike, Find Your Greatness, which is winning?
This could have been a look at Subway and McDonald’s which have a similar confrontation in the Olympic Ad Space, but be it ambush marketers or official sponsors, the success or failure is judged by the level of recall or recognition and the three stripes and the swoosh are among the most recognizable logos in the sports industry. Official sponsors will be able to sponsor broadcasts of the Olympics and they will be offered the advertising slots during those broadcasts before they are offered to anyone else. Adidas provides apparel to many of the national teams and requires that it be worn on the medal podiums. However, the athletes wear whatever they want during the actual events.
To have the right to use the rings or not …. #17days be it for gold or just cold, hard, cash.