“Ambushes done right can deliver instant fame and talk value, but the unpredictability of catching lightning in a bottle is not suited for everyone or every brand,” Innocean’s Eric Springer said in a recent Adweek article called “How to Win the Super Bowl Without Spending $5 Million on a 30-Second Spot.”
With Super Bowl ads fetching a record $5 million for 30 seconds, very few brands can afford to go the official route. Every year, brands try to sneak into the world’s biggest advertising fest without paying for advertising.
This dynamic is increasingly true for sponsorship marketing in general. Whether it’s the World Cup, the Olympics, or more localized events, how has this affected the value of being official? At least the Super Bowl can legitimately claim a captive audience that is as into the ads as the game. But for official sponsorship at many events, a brand’s choices are transactional, limited, and interchangeable. As I heard one sponsorship marketer put it, “it’s just boards and boxes,” referring to logos on a wall and corporate boxes.
Sponsorship marketing is going through a period of soul searching. I think rights holders will need to get more creative with offering official sponsors more interesting ways to associate with an event. And brands will need to continue to up their game with marketing that is truly worth sharing. A paid insertion alone won’t guarantee attention.
Ambushing has now gone so mainstream, the bar is no longer just to out-market official sponsors; ambushers have to out-market the clutter of other ambushers. There are a lot of brands trying to catch the same lightning with the same bottle.
Here’s a cartoon I drew a few years ago after Beats by Dr. Dre ambushed the 2012 Olympics. You couldn’t miss them in Olympic coverage, even though the official sponsor for that category was Samsung.