Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, Mar 29, 2003
Variety - Sports
Spectators `ambushed' by marketing policies
Recently in Johannesburg
THE next time you are planning to attend your favourite sporting event, be sure to check the brand on your attire and accessories. For it is possible that you will be unceremoniously shown the exit if you fail to use the same brand as that of the sponsors.
At the recent cricket World Cup, that's exactly what happened. As if it were not enough that the game was mired in a controversy regarding ambush marketing before the actual event, the scene at South Africa's Wanderers Stadium left one wondering as to what the actual definition of `ambush marketing' was.
For example, a spectator carrying his favourite cola brand, a rival of the official sponsor brand, was asked to leave the drink outside the stadium. The spectator had no option but to consume what the official sponsor offered.
The restriction was not only on food and beverages, the underlying message going around was that even your attire should not sport the names of `rival' companies.
In fact, if there was a display of an `unofficial' banner, security personnel were well within their rights to take it away.
Similar issues prompted the International Cricket Council (ICC) to insert a clause to protect the official sponsors against `being ambushed' by rivals. This may soon become an accepted norm, especially with leading sports bodies seeking to protect their official sponsors.
According to analysts, in marketing terminology, ambush marketing refers to an effort by an unauthorised entity to attempt to benefit from an event at the expense of another company's association with the event. But where does this leave the spectator?
Agreeing that one will be seeing more of such restrictions in the sporting event, Mr Saumya Sen, Creative Director, O&M, said, "At a personal level, I am completely against big businesses dictating human behaviour. For example, this time they stopped spectators from consuming Coke, next time they may stop them from wearing a red shirt. From an ideator's point of view, `ambush marketing' excites me. Some of the legendary campaigns have come out of such situation.
A case in point is the popular Pepsi `Nothing official about it' campaign."
Voicing a similar view, Ms Radhika Roy, Head Qualitative Division, NFO-MBL India, said, "Ambush marketing is innovative and opportunistic. Do you think forcing an `official' brand down the consumers' throat will serve the overall purpose of goodwill for the brand and company?"
Such restrictions actually negate the very purpose of brand promotion, say research analysts.
Even though analysts hold such a view and spectators breathe fire when it happens to them, in these commercial times restrictions on ambush marketing are likely to stay.
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