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World Cup Ambush Marketing that Scores!

Posted by Keely Brown on June 19, 2018

When it comes to ambush marketing, advertisers look for venues that will gain exposure (and sometimes notoriety) for their brands on the biggest world stage possible. With the advent of the 2018 World Cup, marketers (as well as amused consumers) are already anticipating scores of ambush hijinks from crafty companies.

For businesses that utilize ecommerce platforms and ecommerce solutions to legitimately optimize their advertising budgets, ambush marketing might seem like a risky business; but in the annals of advertising history there's a wealth of marketers who have used the World Cup to publicize their brand -- while circumventing the high costs of sponsorship. Here are five fan favorite World Cup ambush campaigns that boosted revenues for their savvy advertisers.

Kulula: The Unofficial Official Airline

kulula-world-cup-ambushAs one of ambush marketing's quirkiest examples (and that's saying a lot), shortly before the 2010 World Cup, South African airline Kulula launched an ad campaign claiming to be the "Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What," even though Kulula wasn't a sponsor. The World Cup governing body, FIFA, demanded that Kulula end the campaign. Kulula pulled the ads -- but then announced that it would fly anyone with the name "Sepp Blatter" for free. The joke? "Sepp Blatter" was the name of FIFA's president. As it turned out, someone had a Boston Terrier with the name, and Kulula garnered even more publicity by naming the dog their unofficial mascot. Possibly as a result of this cheeky contretemps, FIFA now carries a stern warning against ambush marketing.

Bavaria Branded Outfits

At the 2010 World Cup, beer maker Bavaria hired 36 beautiful young women to dress in Bavaria-branded outfits and party in the stadium during the Holland/Denmark match. Of course, the branded ladies caught the attention of TV cameras, which broadcast their antics to billions of watchers -- resulting in advertising that was well worth the nominal $106,000 fine that Bavaria had to pay for violating ad rules.

This racy stunt was actually the sequel to a similar ruse pulled by Bavaria during the 2006 World Cup games, when the beer company hired dozens of men to attend a match dressed in orange lederhosen emblazoned with Bavaria's name. The men were ordered to remove the lederhosen -- and billions of television viewers were treated to the sight of a bunch of men watching the game in their underwear.

Taking a Bite of the World Cup Promotional Pie

Suarez-no-teeth-BillboardFans may remember when, at the 2014 World Cup game, Uruguayan player Luis Suarez bit the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. Immediately afterward, Paddy Power, Specsavers and Snickers joined in on the fun with billboards and tweets showing images of the incident, paired with clever captions touting their brands.

Shaving the Rainforest

A week before England's first match at the 2014 World Cup, bookmaker Paddy Power posted a number of photos on social media showing patriotic messages that appeared to be spelled out by cleared trees in the Amazon rainforest. After social media users protested this callous deforestation, Paddy Power admitted that the computer-generated images in their "Shave the Rainforest" ads were faked. The stunt not only got attention for Paddy Power; it also raised awareness about unnecessary deforestation.

Nike Risks Everything

In one of ambush marketing's biggest success stories, Nike created "Risk Everything," an ad campaign that tied in to the 2014 World Cup by using internationally-known soccer players to promote a message of taking risks to win. The videos got hundreds of millions of views on social media. Nike was the one taking the risk, however, because Adidas was the official World Cup sponsor -- but the campaign garnered Nike a 13 percent increase (approximately $5.75 billion) in sales.


As the 2018 World Cup progresses, advertisers will keep a sharp eye out for any spontaneous opportunities they can latch on to. By the end of the games, it will be interesting to see how successful these companies will be in winning extra fame and fortune for their brands, without having to invest millions of dollars in sponsorship advertising.

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Topics: Ambush Marketing, World Cup, Advertising, Marketing, Brands, Ecommerce, Consumer

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