Sales & Marketing

8 great ambush marketing campaigns

5 min read

06 August 2014

Although ambush marketing comes in many forms, the goal is to ultimately draw attention away from one brand using creative means. With a lead or official brand usually being the target, ambushers have become ever more imaginative in their approach to marketing.

Here are eight excellent examples.

1. Rona catches Apple’s paint

In Canada, Montreal, Apple had a billboard promoting the iPod nano, where the colour of the iPod would drip down at the bottom. Home improvement chain Rona saw a great opportunity and pulled off perhaps one of the greatest ambush campaign stunts. They placed a banner below Apple’s billboard so that it looked like the paint was falling into buckets. The text on their banner translated into: “We recycle leftover paint.”

2. Newcastle mocks Stella

Newcastle Brown Ale is known for its cheeky marketing stunts, and as part of their “No Bol**cks” campaign, decided to mock rival Stella’s use of the word chalice. A Stella billboard read: “It’s a chalice. Not a glass.” Newcastle’s agency, Droga5, added a billboard of their own underneath, stating: “Who uses the word chalice?” Simple, yet highly effective!

3. Fiat photobombs Volkswagen

In 2012, Fiat noted that Google street view cars were roaming the streets of Södertälje in Sweden. What did they do? They followed the car for 45 minutes until they were close to VW’s headquarters, then zoomed ahead and managed to park a bright red Fiat 500 in front of the building. What’s amazing is the fact that the car was literally on the doorstep… leaves you wondering how they managed to get the car up those stairs. And due to Google’s pattern of delayed updating, the image remained there for a year or two. Unfortunately… the Google car also mapped the car going to and leaving the scene of the crime.

4. Stella becomes the (un)official beer of US Open

In the 2011 US Open, Heineken was the official beer sponsor. Despite this fact, Stella chose the closest station it could to the Bille Jean King National Tennis Centre and littered the terminal with 15 different Stella adverts. This made it look as if Stella was sponsoring the tennis event. The ads had tennis themes, with slogans like “the top-seeded Belgian,” “your trophy awaits” and “a perfect match.”

5. Audi vs BMW

Perhaps one of the most famous examples is the 2009 Audi and BMW billboard war in Santa Monica. Audi thought they’d be clever and issued a challenge to BMW with an image of the Audi A4, accompanied by the words: “Your move, BMW.” Of course, BMW answered. Right next to the Audi advert they threw up an image of the BMW M3 and said: “Checkmate.” Everything then got slightly out of control when fans took to photoshop and decided to craft their own responses, including the BMW sign flying a blimp with a picture of its F1 entry.

6. Oddbins pushes non-Olympic marketing rules to the limit

Oddbins escaped the 2012 Olympics’ strict marketing rules by highlighting how the company had been prevented from referring to the Olympics, while at the same time pushing wine discounts. In what they deemed as a “counter-marketing strike,” Oddbins also offered a 30 per cent discount on products from non-Olympic sponsors. Their displays read: “We’re not allowed to tell you which team we’re supporting… so we’ll tell you about this Aussie champion instead. Jansz Brut NV £15.” Another announced: “We can’t mention the event. We can’t mention the city. We can’t even mention the year. At least they can’t stop us telling you about this: Rococco Rose £17.”

7. Wepay ices PayPal

Startup company WePay did the unthinkable! In the time that PayPal was paying the price for “freezing” customer accounts, and during a PayPal developer conference, WePay left them a little gift. They froze money inside a massive chunk of ice and wheeled it to the front doors of the conference with a message: “PayPal freezes accounts – unfreeze your money”.

8. Dr Dre beats Olympis sponsors

Another great Olympics example is Beats by Dr Dre, who gatecrashed the 2012 Olympics. The rapper sent headphones to dozens of athletes and even made special editions for team GB branded with union flag colours. Indeed, athletes wore them, posed for cameras wearing them and took to tweeting about them too. The company saw a 42 per cent increase in sales following the event.