Ambush marketing

Given the slump in consumer spending, marketers have been taking innovative steps to stimulate sales. They have relied on techniques that mean free advertising, so-called ambush marketing.

Historically, retail sales have shown a direct relationship to disposable, personal income. Recently, those available revenues have been adversely affected by high gasoline and fuel oil prices, as well as general inflation, job cutbacks, and extensive insecurity about the economy. Heretofore, the heavy spending by those in the 18 to 34 age category has been one of the primary factors stimulating retail sales, but the same overall negative influences affecting retail spending have crimped retail sales among this younger group.

To compensate for those adverse pressures, companies have used ambush marketing; to promote their brands they are using methods that first were introduced in bygone eras. Then, in motion pictures actors were shown, say, smoking a certain brand of cigarette, with the package clearly visible. Perhaps they were getting into a very beautiful car with the nameplate legible.

Now, following along with those methods, at sporting events patrons buying beer have been given coloured hats, with brand-name insignia. At the Olympic Games gatekeepers insisted that those hats be removed as they were a way around paying a sponsorship fee.

Then too, overzealous enforcement officials have demanded that plastic "lederhosen" (shorts with straps) supplied by a Bavarian beer company with its name on them had to be removed, forcing some spectators to sit in their underwear.

As part of a campaign to promote their brand names without paying the large television sponsorship charge, at sporting events companies have their names emblazoned on the huge scoreboard. Of course, television cameras often focus on that, far less expensive than paying a promotion fee.

Some companies provide schools with television sets free of charge, with the proviso the channels are fixed. Included therein is a great deal of advertising aimed at youngsters, ambush marketing at its worst.

Ambush marketers have replaced hooligans as villains at many events, not only because they undermine official sources of revenue, but also since they obviously deface property in some way.

No matter how much the public may object to ambush marketing, such promotion by stealth seems to be a phenomenon here to stay.


Bruce Whitestone