We’re fans of brands that get creative in an effort to hijack the attention generated by major events they don’t actually sponsor, whether it’s the African airline that found a way to get Sepp Blatter to endorse it, Nike’s focus on other Londons during the Olympics or Calendar Girls flying a plane above Eden Park advertising its services as Martin Guptill smashed a six after a Mitchell Johnson no-ball in the Cricket World Cup. Long-time All Blacks sponsor Steinlager is winning that battle at the moment with its ‘We Believe’ campaign managing to reference the upcoming Large Sporting Event without actually mentioning it. And Samsung is also embracing euphemisms for one of its promotions.
Samsung is a big supporter of rugby around the world, with sponsorships of South African and Australian teams, but not so much in New Zealand (NZ Rugby still doesn’t have a tech partner after Telecom left, so no doubt it’s been approached). So it’s gone the generic route with its 1st XV giveaway and used the classic non-specific descriptor ‘the big game’ (side note: the New Zealand outpost of Samsung joined Twitter a few days ago).
The Edge took some of the ridiculous restrictions even further with its Love You Man campaign last year. So if any non-affiliated brands want to make RWC hay this time round, probably best to go with Guy Williams’ suggestion and use ‘Super Rugby Friends playing the fun time rugby cup’.
For those planning on benefitting from legitimate sponsorship activities, check out Lynda Brendish’s ‘Riding Shotgun’ story here. And for those who are happy with subversion, here are a few other notable ambush campaigns:
Michael Johnson’s gold Nikes
Nike has a long history of ambushing Olympics marketing and it all started at the 1986 event. Reebok was the official sponsor, but it was Michael Johnson’s gold Nikes that people noticed. The American sprinter raced to gold several times in his iconic shoes, earning himself the nickname ‘the man with the golden shoes’. No one was talking about Reebok.
Steinlager’s White Can
During the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Steinlager, a long-time sponsor of the All Blacks, wasn’t allowed to mention the tournament, which was sponsored by Heineken. Lion claimed it was happier to have the All Blacks as a property. But it alluded to the event very cleverly by running a campaign based on a fan who decided to save a can of Steinlager from the All Blacks’ 1987 victory for the next win. Thankfully, he got the chance to open it.
The high-priced headphones made famous by Dr Dre are a desirable accessory for many athletes. A desire no doubt propelled by the fact that Beats has a history of supplying free pairs to high profile athletes. Several organisations have gone on to ban Beats from their official events, including the American NFL and FIFA, to avoid earning the ire of official electronics partners. The strategy seems to have backfired, with Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine reveling in the subsequent slew of media attention.
Sepp Blatter flies Kulula
The South African airline made media waves when it offered to fly FIFA president Sepp Blatter for free during the World Cup in 2010. Blatter was not amused, but the company persisted in finding someone—anyone—named Sepp Blatter to fly. Instead they found a dog—and thus earned the right to officially call themselves Sepp Blatter’s airline.
Another Olympics ambush from Nike. Instead of focusing on the athletic greatness taking place in London, England, Nike filmed everyday athletic moments of greatness at other Londons around the world. Using the hashtag line #FindGreatness, Nike made a dig at the pomp and circumstance of the Olympics without actually mentioning it.