Ambush Marketing Report: Olympics

The benefit of Olympic exclusivity has the ability to elevate any brand while providing opportunities to create compelling campaigns that really speak to consumers – but let's be clear on one thing, which is that sponsoring the Olympics is not cheap. Over the years, the International Olympic Committee has reduced the amount of associated advertisers from hundreds to the now only ten Olympic partners that each contibute over $100 million to participate for the four years. With such an expensive buy-in, there is good reason why the IOC places such importance on brand protection now a days. Despite this, as you may have noticed, Sochi has been no stranger to ambush marketing.


With McDonald's acting as the Official Restaurant of the Games, Subway has decided to promote its' $5 footlong sandwiches through a much more cost-effective approach. Subway's “JanuANY New Year” advertising campaign shows glimpses of hockey rinks, snowboarders, figure skaters and even Apolo Ohno – forcing people to think Sochi while thinking Subway. This is not the first time that Subway has ambushed the Olympics either. For the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the restaurant chain showcased ads with Michael Phelps swimming across North America to what seemed like Vancouver. When McDonald's complained about the ad, Subway's Chief Marketing Officer responded at a conference with “My reaction to the fact that McDonald's is upset? I'm lovin' it.”


As a proud Canadian myself, I wouldn't write an article without including atleast some Canadian content, so here goes. The Canadian Olympic Committee recently accused Labatt of ambush marketing through the promotion of the new “Budweiser Red Zeppelin” advertisement. The ad focuses on a group of Russians who react negatively to a Team Canada goal against their home country, but then the ad moves towards Canada where patriotic fans are partying and celebrating with some “buds”. Budweiser continues the advertising campaign, by having the Red Zeppelin (which also is conveniently the world's largest goal light) appear in popular cities across Canada starting, you guessed it, on February 7th 2014. It's a clear attempt to associate Budweiser with the Olympics, and Molson Canadian is not impressed.


Unlike Apple phones and laptops, placing duct tape over the bottom of snowboards to cover up logos is not a viable option. In fact, it seems to be a guerilla marketing opportunity that the IOC might have overlooked, and companies like Burton have taken advtange. A clear loophole in the IOC's brand protection strategy has allowed Burton to plaster their name in large letters across many Olympic snowboards, allowing their boards to get serious “airtime” with tv audiences. An IOC spokesperson told NBC, that this was allowed since “identification of the manufacturer may be carried as generally used on products sold through the retail trade during the period of 12 months prior to the Games”. Once the Olympics finish up later this week, there will certainly be a discussion on this rule in specific.