Ambush Marketing: An Ace Up the Sleeve? - Analyst Blog


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In last week's Academy Awards, little did host Ellen DeGeneres know that her funny bit about ordering pizzas from local chain Big Mama's & Papa's would become so popular. When the pizza delivery boy went live on the show, The Coca-Cola Company 's ( KO ) logo inadvertently popped out from the signature red and yellow boxes of Big Mama's and Papa's.

This turned out to be a huge ambush marketing bit for Coca-Cola, whose brand logo became visible to an estimated 43.7 million viewers on Oscar night. Soon after, the brand logo gained larger visibility on social media platforms like Twitter, Inc. ( TWTR ) when stars such as Jared Leto, Martin Scorsese, Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford tweeted and re-tweeted their pizza-eating selfies.

The Unlikely Winner

Coca-Cola had been a leading sponsor of Oscars for the last eight years. However, it decided otherwise this year as sponsorship fees skyrocketed to $1.8 million for a 30-second spot. The coveted nonalcoholic beverage sponsor position was taken by its rival Pepsico, Inc. ( PEP ). Pepsi debuted with a 60-second spot in the primetime slot to showcase its 7.5-ounce mini Pepsi cans with an Oscar-winning line from Jerry Maguire : "Show me the money!"

But Coca-Cola got the free publicity and gained maximum coverage and brand recall from an unplanned and impromptu stunt by the host. In addition to the initial onscreen appearance, the Coca-Cola logo was widely circulated across the digital media that covered and analyzed the event.

And the List Continues

Another leading sponsor Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. ( SSNLF ) reportedly paid The Walt Disney Company ( DIS )-owned ABC Network approximately $18 million for 5 minutes worth of prime-time coverage in addition to unspecified consideration for product placement throughout the broadcast. The consumer electronics manufacturer also sponsored 10 tweets that featured celebrity selfies from the green room and were tweeted via the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' Twitter account.

Incidentally, the sponsors were once again taken aback as DeGeneres was seen using her Apple Inc. ( AAPL )-manufactured iPhone for the tweets. The incident was perhaps unintentional as she had earlier used her iPhone in her talk shows and even made an iPhone app game to promote her shows.

The outright winner among the non-sponsors was probably Big Mama's & Papa's, whose online orders surged by about 400%-500% in the after-hours of the free publicity. In addition to online visitors and follow-up orders, this 20-year old pizza chain gained huge brand awareness as media outlets from Australia and Europe queued up for interviews. This has obviously made McDonald's Corp. ( MCD ), another leading Oscar sponsor, wonder as to how and why it lost out despite having a worldwide appeal.

Seeking Greener Pastures

With FIFA World Cup 2014 scheduled to kick off on Jun 12 in Brazil, marketers will have another opportunity to push their brands. Four billion fans are expected to tune in on television and a multitude of digital and social media channels. As sponsorship fees are significantly high and restricted to a selected few, ambush marketing is likely to be an avenue to draw viewer attention.

Pepsi is trying to payback Coca-Cola as it attempts to ambush its arch-rival's multi-million pound sponsorship of the World Cup with its own "superstar 2014 football squad." Soccer players including Argentines Lionel Messi and Sergio Agüero, Englishman Jack Wilshere and Brazilian David Luiz will be part of its 'Live for Now' campaign.In addition to Pepsi's global television commercials, selected players will also be featured on a limited-edition attractive packaging and point-of-sale merchandise across the globe. This is likely to generate similar buzz among fans as compared to event sponsor Coca-Cola without paying the hefty sponsorship fees for the same.

The 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland offers an additional option for ambush marketers to cash in on the event popularity. The forthcoming edition is expected to be one of the most memorable Commonwealth Games ever with 6,500 athletes from 70 countries competing in 17 sports over 11 days from 23rd July to 3rd August.

The Watchdogs

However, Glasgow organizers are implementing stricter measures to protect sponsorship rights and have probably learned their lessons from the London 2012 Summer Olympics when Nike, Inc. ( NKE ) ambushed rival sponsor Adidas AG ( ADDYY ) with a suave ad campaign. Even FIFA has upped its vigil against ambush marketing activities through increased awareness, improved surveillance for any infringement and enforcement of a fair play ground by means of legal threats and sanctions.

The Escape Clause

No matter what the event organizers plan and ideate, the fact remains that ambush marketing was, is, and perhaps will always be a ploy to attract and exploit any global event without officially tying up with it. These seemingly low-cost strategic campaigns keep on innovating to escape through the loopholes of the law, and continue to achieve their desired effects.

APPLE INC (AAPL): Free Stock Analysis Report

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DISNEY WALT (DIS): Free Stock Analysis Report

COCA COLA CO (KO): Free Stock Analysis Report

MCDONALDS CORP (MCD): Free Stock Analysis Report

NIKE INC-B (NKE): Free Stock Analysis Report

PEPSICO INC (PEP): Free Stock Analysis Report

TWITTER INC (TWTR): Free Stock Analysis Report

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

This article appears in: Investing , Business , Stocks
More Headlines for: AAPL , ADDYY , DIS , KO , MCD

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