High Risk, High Reward of Bavaria’s Ambush Marketing

Thanks to Johan from Philips for sending me the link to the Black Book blog post on Bavaria's bit of highly risky but ultimately high impact ambush marketing at the World Cup.

In case you missed it, the beer company arranged for 36 rather attractive blonde ladies to wear snug fitting, orange dresses during the Netherlands vs. Denmark match. Now, there was no Bavaria branding apart from a tiny and invisible tag on each dress. And orange is the Dutch team's colour. Despite this, FIFA saw it as a threat to Budweiser, the official beer. They marched the girls out. And arrested the 2 ring-leaders, or cheer leaders should I say. Amazing. There was a resulting frenzy of TV and news coverage, all promoting the Bavaria brand.

It was pretty scary for the 2 leading girls, who had to appear in court, and were threatened with a prison sentence. Happily, in the end they were released.

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Some key learning:

1. Intelligent ambushing

So called "ambush marketing" is harder and harder to do as organisers like FIFA police events more vigorously. The Bavaria activity was smart in its subtelty. No big logos. Just a dress in the colours of the national team playing. But multiplied by 36 and being worn by the right people, it was bound to be picked up by the cameramen.

2. You need balls of steel

You have to be pretty brave to pull this sort of trick off. Imagine being the marketing director the day the 2 lead girls were arrested. You need to be brave enough to take some real risks for this sort of activity to pay off.

3. Amplify the activity

The brand has missed a trick by not amplifying the activity, as per the earlier post on Heineken's spoof opera event. The brand's international home page (on left below) is plugging non-alcoholic beer! Hardly a fit with a rebellious daring brand. The Dutch homepage does have a photo the 2 main girls, celebrating their freedom (on the right below).

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The orange dress in question was actually a world cup promotional item, advertised with a rather boring ad. The dress is also in the brand's online shop, but again it is not pushed very hard.

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In the brand's defence, perhaps being low key was part of the deal to keep the girls out of jail.

In conclusion, ambush marketing can still create brand impact for brave businesses ready for risk. But to really reap the reward you need pro-active planning to really amplify the activity and get the return on investment the risk requires.