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2012 set to become marketing battleground

The conclusion of a study undertaken by experts at the Centre for the International Business of Sport (CIBS) based at Coventry University Business School indicates that official sponsors, event organisers and consumers should expect a spring and summer of intense ambush marketing activity ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games and the UEFA European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.

Ambushing involves the rivals of event partners, or official sponsors, trying to pass themselves off as official event sponsors or deflect people’s attention away from the official sponsors. Ambushers historically have engaged in activities such as the execution of stunts, smuggling products into event venues, and using star performers who are not signed to endorse products for event partners.

Over the last four years, the CIBS research team has gathered and analysed evidence from more than 600 cases of ambushing at sporting events in several countries, including the UK, the USA, Germany, Poland and China. The research indicates how widespread and increasingly prevalent ambushing has become over the last three decades.

With a growing number of ambushing cases likely to emerge as the year progresses, the implications are likely to be serious:

For sporting events, although legislation is sometimes in place to protect against ambushing, significant extra costs are often incurred, for instance in protecting against and policing it.

For official sponsors, ambushing potentially undermines the return on their investment in event sponsorship deals.

For consumers, ambush can create a great deal of confusion and cause them to be misled. Consumers may also be affected by the policing of ambushers and the protection of official sponsors, potentially raising questions about people’s rights when entering venues or exclusion zones.

Professor Simon Chadwick, chair in Sport Business Strategy and Marketing at Coventry University’s Business School and one of the academics behind the study, said:

“This summer’s mega sporting events are likely to be as interesting off the field as they are on it. Ambushers are set to pounce to ensure that official partners and sponsors don’t have things their own way. We are likely to see ambushers engaged in activities ranging from rival advertising through to the distribution of free gifts and the use of images deliberately designed to mislead consumers about who the ‘official’ sponsors are.

“Host countries are undoubtedly learning the value of legislation to protect official sponsors at past Olympic Games, and the importance of appropriate legal action. Event rights holders must now consider even greater exclusive marketing zones surrounding venues, and a continued presence of ‘ambush police’ with the authority to protect their sponsors’ investment, in order to prevent ambushers from capitalising on the attention surrounding these mega events.”


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