Ambush Marketing

Updated on March 19, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byWallstreetmojo Team
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Ambush Marketing?

Ambush marketing is the strategy adopted by a company or brand that takes advantage of others’ marketing campaigns to gain exposure and profit. The main purpose of it is to make the customers believe that the marketing campaign is associated with a certain event, sport, or team. 

Ambush Marketing

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This kind of marketing is done to attract the attention of people in large numbers toward a particular product or brand. The companies do not pay sponsorship fees for such marketing but still get noticed by many people at the event. It is why it is also referred to as predatory marketing.

Key Takeaways

  • Ambush marketing is the name given to the marketing tactic used by a company or brand to profit from and gain exposure from other brands’ marketing campaigns.
  • It is broadly categorized into two different types of marketing: direct and indirect ambush marketing.
  • Guerrilla marketing uses innovative and unconventional marketing strategies to draw customers to a specific brand or product. On the other hand, ambush marketing is a strategy used by a brand to leverage other branding campaigns to market its goods without having to pay sponsorship fees.

Ambush Marketing Explained

Ambush marketing is a marketing strategy under which particular brand ambushes or covers the marketing strategy adopted by the competitors to gain a competitive advantage and promote their product to create brand awareness in the market and make revenue. It means free promotion of goods and services by connecting a brand to a team or event without paying a promotion fee. 

This form of advertisement or marketing strategy is generally unofficial. It involves no permission from the authorities, but the marketers intend to make customers believe it has an official association with the event or the team. On one end, ambush marketing is considered a great advertising tactic, but on the other end, it is an unethical business practice done by the companies.

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Ambush marketing is broadly categorized into two different types of marketing: 

1. Direct Ambush Marketing

The direct category is further subdivided into four different types: 

  • Predatory Ambushing: Under this, the brand willfully attacks the other brand, which diverts or confuses the people regarding the real sponsor advertising the product or services in the market.
  • Coattail Ambushing: Coattail ambushing is the marketing strategy that brands adopt to connect to chains of smaller events rather than affiliating themselves with larger events. For example, Nike is the official sponsor of the football league. Still, Adidas distributes its jersey and other accessories to the audience, thus reflecting that Adidas is the actual sponsor instead of Nike.
  • Property or Trademark Infringement: In such a scenario, the brand uses logos, symbols, and taglines of the competitors to attract the audience in the market and confuse them with the main sponsor of the event. 
  • Self Ambushing: It is an act of advertising beyond the guidelines mentioned in the sponsorship contract. When a company breaches the limit mentioned in the sponsorship contract and infringes the right of the other sponsors in an event, it is referred to as self-ambushing. 

2. Indirect Ambushing

A brand indirectly promotes its product or services by linking it to a larger event. In this form of advertising, the competitors do not consider the brand predatory. 

It is further subdivided into three types: 

  • Ambushing by Association: It is the strategy under which a brand uses the term or the image that does not have any intellectual property rights associated with it, but it creates an illusion in the minds of people that it has a link with the particular brand. 
  • Value-Based Ambushing: A strategy by nonsponsor brands to advertise their product with certain themes or values that catch people’s attention at the big event.
  • Ambushing by Distraction: The companies adopt a strategy to promote the event without being part of it.


Let us look at ambush marketing examples to understand the concept better: 

Example #1

For example, there are two brands, X and Y. There is an international sports event in the football stadium. Brand Y is the main sponsor of the event, but brand X uses marketing or advertising tactics in the event, making it look like brand X is the main sponsor of the event by competing with Y. Thus, brand Y is considered ambushed by Brand X.

Example #2

The 1996 Olympic games held in Atlanta showcase a perfect example of ambush marketing. Nike chose not to advertise its products or pay sponsorship fees in the Olympic games. However, Nike did ambush marketing by advertising in the Olympics. Michael Johnson raced in the Olympic event with the gold Nike shoes and gold medals, overshadowing the event’s main sponsor, Reebok.

Advantages And Disadvantages

The advantages and disadvantages of ambush marketing are as follows:


  • Ambush marketing is creative and easily grabs people’s attention.
  • The marketing strategy is different from traditional advertising as they have full freedom to use the tone and style, which results in making content at their freedom.
  • It helps change customer perceptions towards a particular brand and improves brand credibility.
  • If ambush marketing is done correctly, it can bring in revenue for the business and increase profit margins


  • It is an expensive form of advertising. In addition, the increased level of competition with other brands increases the spending on the advertisement.
  • Tracking and gauging the return on investment is difficult.
  • Quick planning and coordination within the available time and space are also tricky.

Ambush Marketing vs Guerilla Marketing

The difference between ambush marketing and guerilla marketing are as follows: 

  • Guerilla marketing involves unconventional and creative tactics to attract people to a particular product or brand. In contrast, ambush marketing is the tactic used by the brand that takes advantage of other branding campaigns to advertise its products.
  • In the case of ambush marketing, the advertisement is usually done at big events to compete with the other competitors. Whereas in the case of guerrilla marketing, the advertisement is usually displayed at unexpected locations where the consumers would not expect it. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to control ambush marketing?

The sponsors who pay the high sponsorship costs should be aware of ambush marketing; although being seen as ignorable, it is a severe issue that reduces the value of their sponsorship. Therefore, event planners and sponsors should invest time and money in advance of the event, preparing how to resist ambush marketing to safeguard legitimate sponsors. 

Why do corporations engage in the practice of ambush marketing?

Corporations engage in ambush marketing to generate revenue and increase the market share of their goods and services compared to the competitive brands. However, this type of marketing is considered unethical since the brands do not sponsor or pay the promotion fees to advertise their products.

Is ambush marketing illegal?

No, ambush marketing is considered unethical but not illegal, as the companies or brands use it to gain a competitive advantage and increase revenue rather than manipulate the business practices adopted by the competitors. 

This article has been a guide to what is Ambush Marketing. We explain its types, examples, advantages, disadvantages and comparison with guerilla marketing. You may also find some useful articles here –

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