Olympics Ambush Marketing Winner Goes to… Dr Dre. Beats

World records, sporting heroes, and brand-wars. The Olympic games may be over for another four years but, sports and athletes aside, the legacy of the London 2012 brand police is likely to live on.


Long before the first athletes arrived in the London the global coverage of the stringent branding laws enforced by the London Olympic Games Organising Committee (LOGOC) had already spread worldwide.


With corporate sponsorship of the games essential to cover the £15 billion cost of hosting the games, it is of course understandable that LOGOC would do its utmost to protect the branding rights of official brand sponsors; each paying up to £100 million over 4 years for the privilege.


That said, laws including the possible forfeiting of medals by winning athletes if they promoted any brand or product via twitter, or banning people and businesses from decorating their own private property brought the 2012 brand protection laws to a new level.



With Rules Come Rule Breakers

Naturally, the Olympic Games are an attractive association for any brand looking to capitalize on the attention and popularity of the international spectacle. For many brands who lack the budgets to enter into a sponsorship agreement, (and some who can), the temptation exists to try and stretch LOGOC’s branding laws, despite the legal risks.


Irish brand Paddy Power was one such brand who successfully skirted LOGOC’s brand laws, although narrowly, with their ambush marketing poster campaign.


 Paddy Power Ambush


Paddy Power’s ad proclaims that the Irish bookmaker is the “Official sponsor of the largest athletics event in London this year! There you go, we said it”. They then go on to reveal that the sponsorship is of an egg and spoon race to be held in the town of London in France. LOGOC’s threatened legal proceedings against the brand Paddy Power, but was unsuccessful.


Nike has a history of ambush marketing at the Olympic games that dates back to the 1970s. This years games were no different. As a non-sponsor Nike was forbidden from mentioning the games in their advertisements, despite the brand sponsoring many star athletes and several countries’ team kit.


Nike reacted by posting a 60-second ad on YouTube that marked the worldwide unveiling of a campaign called “Find Your Greatness.” The ad cheekily takes on the strict restrictions of the Olympic branding laws. Instead of showing Olympic athletes in action in London, England, viewers will see unknown athletes in towns and villages called London around the world.


“There are no grand celebrations here, no speeches, no bright lights,” a narrator with an English accent explains. “But there are great athletes. Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is reserved for the chosen few, for the superstars. The truth is, greatness is for all of us.” With 5,108,976 views to date and counting, Nike got their message out there!



While both Paddy Power and Nike playfully take on the rules governing brand association of the games, you have to question, is doing so in keeping with their brand image? And how well does it fit with the rest of their brand strategy?


Both brands benefited in terms of press coverage for their marketing stunts. Nike in particular sets a tone that suggests to LOGOC “if you can’t beat them, diminish them”. As a sponsor of sporting legends does this advertisement by Nike aim to support them during their biggest career challenge?



Brand Ambush Champion 2012

If there was a gold medal for Olympic ambush marketing it would go to the undisputed 2012 brand winner Dr. Dre Beats. Watching the games, particularly the aquatic or athletic events, you more than likely saw a significant proportion of athletes supporting headphones with the trademark B of Dr. Dre Beats.


Cullen Jones Wears Beats


Olympic heroes such as Britain’s Tom Daley and the great Michael Phelps were seen by audiences of millions wearing their Beats as they entered the Olympic Arena. The brand that paid nothing in sponsorship fees was arguably the most visible brand for several of the most viewed events in the games.



Why This Was Ambush Marketing At Its Best

Beats’ brand visibility during the games was a carefully orchestrated strategic move by the company. The brand invited athletes to pick up their free pair of Beats from a collection point set up in the trendy private members club in London. As athletes were not being paid to promote the brand they managed to avoid breaking LOGOC’s rules.


Olympian Beats By Dre


Their campaign was subtle yet effective. There was no official press launch, no global PR campaign. Panasonic, official sponsor of the games paid £64 million for the association. The cost to Dr. Dre Beats? A few hundred pairs of their headphones.


While their ambush campaign paid off in terms of visibility their success is more significant than that. Through their ambush campaign Beats aligned its brand with inspirational globally recognized athletes; role models for audiences the world over.


Amy Cure Beats By Dre


The campaign worked not only because it fit within Beats traditional strategy of celebrity endorsement, but was further reinforced by the brands natural fit within the context of the games where athletes have used headphones and earphones before their event since the days of the Walkman in the 70s.


According to John Lewis sales for the Dr. Dre Beats headphones have increased by 116% in their stores. The number of sports headphones sold is said to have gone up by 42%, with general headphone sales at a steady 19% increase during the games.


Like any strategy ‘ambush marketing’ needs careful planning, a clear goal and it must support the existing brand strategy. Dr. Dre Beats deserve to reap the rewards of their winning campaign.


• Does your marketing activity support the core values, positioning, profile, story and overall vision for your brand?


• Could you use ambush marketing activities strategically planned to fit within your core brand positioning and target audiences needs?


What do you think of the various ‘ambush marketing’ campaigns mentioned?

Do you have any stories of your own you like to share?

Get in touch, we’d love to hear your thoughts.


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