Ambush Marketing: Smart Moves by Smart People

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on October 02, 2013

Ambush Marketing is always looked with an interest in the marketing arena. This is because this is the one of the most aggressive strategy adopted by competitors which creates double impact in the market.

Firstly, it hijacks the planning and execution of competitors by being one step ahead of them.

Secondly, company gets more return with less investment

However, there is lot of debate in the market whether it is ethical or unethical. But it is becoming the need of the hour because of increasing competition, undifferentiated products and service. The 7 P’s of marketing is generally understood by all the companies and there is a need of creativity to gain the mindshare of prospects.


The Word Ambush means well planned Surprise attack. It is the older method of warfare which is used in the present era of advertisement and competition. It gained its media attention after 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, when Fuji outbid Kodak by spending $7 million to become the official sponsor of the Olympics after that Kodak bought 102 ads therefore if someone watch Olympics on American TV. They never saw Fuji Blimp. It was first witnessed in India during 1996 cricket world cup held in Indian subcontinent. The official sponsorship was undertaken by Coca-Cola by paying INR 40 Crores as sponsorship fees. Now there comes Pepsi with a creative approach to attack the official sponsor of the event with its new tagline “Nothing official about it”.

People in India started thinking Pepsi as the official sponsor of the event and the money invested by coca-Cola went in vain.

After successful launch of this strategy many companies started adopting this strategy.


For Eg. Jet airways came up with a new campaign “We have changed” and displayed hoardings that read the same.

Now it was Kingfisher’s turn to attack Jet and thus countered the campaign by just adding a hoarding above which is “We made them change”.

But this was not an end of the story. Go Air put up a hoarding above these two which read “We have not changed; we’re still the smartest way to fly”.

A campaign like this also hurts the customer loyalty as every customer wants to be associated with the best in the market and not with a company which is struggling in a no man’s land.

Similar Story happened with P&G and HUL

Procter & Gamble started mystery campaign for the re-launch of Pantene that read “A Mystery Shampoo!! 80% women say it is better than anything else” seeing this HUL ambushed the campaign and just put up a hoarding adjacent to it with a new tagline that read “There is no mystery. Dove is the No: 1 shampoo”.

The success of the advertisement lies in getting exactly same customer who sees earlier advertisement. Therefore place is the Key in Ambush Marketing along with Time. The ambusher should be as fast as possible so that it comes up with the surprise to the ambushed and poach the customers.

In the examples described above, the ambushed company cannot avail of any specific legal remedy. The advertising campaign can only be considered an unfair trade practice, the remedy for enforcement of which is not very clear.

Ambush advertising can be trapped in the legal web by legislations like The Trade Mark Act, 1999 or The Copyright Act, 1957 when it is direct. However, the three examples described above, use the indirect ambush which cannot be trapped under any specific legislation and it leaves the underdog brand in a tight spot.

Therefore Ambush is for the smart people to gain an edge over competitors without getting into any legal soups.

The article has been authored by Anurag Gupta, FORE School Of Management

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