Does great marketing sometimes have to break the rules?

Ambush marketing is a marketing strategy where advertisers can capitalise on an event without paying a sponsorship fee.

There have been several stories in the news this week about ‘ambush marketing’ at the Olympics where non-official sponsors of the Games have used creative ways to get around the restrictive marketing protocols that are in place.

A great example of this is discussed in Tom Fishburne’s ‘marketoonists’ blog ( [more]

Tom highlights the ambush marketing strategy of headphone brand Beats, by Dr. Dre.

Beats, not an official sponsor of the Games, customized headphones in national colors and then strategically sampled them to athletes. Athletes wore Beats everywhere in the games – who hasn’t watched a swimming event without seeing at least one athlete per race walking to their starting blocks with large headphones over their ears?

Beats successfully got their headphones in the spotlight because the athletes didn’t see themselves as part of a marketing campaign. They were just using equipment they genuinely liked – and were given for free.

This year, the Olympic branding police were hot on any marketing violations – from small cafes to internet ads. Parliament even approved a £30,000 penalty to discourage it.

However, the Beats brand slipped through the net – even though rival Panasonic is the official audio brand.

Nike too – not an official Olympic sponsor – has a new YouTube ad that promotes athletes in towns around the world called London.  Nike is not actually ‘saying’ the 2012 London Olympics but you can’t avoid linking the brand to the city and, thus, the event. Adidas, an official Olympic sponsor, paid around $60 million for their ‘official’  brand status.

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