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Why ambush marketing is winning

For now, ambush marketing is winning. Not because the law isn’t strong enough to prevent brands from hijacking physical events, but because the media by which consumers watch those events has broadened so much.

“This is the tip of the iceberg,” said Bruce P. Keller of Debevoise & Plimpton at the session The Evolving Nature of Ambush Marketing yesterday. “In the future everyone will be watching these events on split screens, with streams from the Internet.”

He was referring to the example of ambush marketing that had just been given: Coca-Cola’s campaign of polar bear characters reacting live to the Super Bowl through a dedicated website, Pepsi was the official sponsor for the American football game this year, but Coca-Cola’s bears proved so popular that they upstaged their competitor. The two bears, each supporting a different team, reacted in real time to the game—and even left the room when an ad for Pepsi came on. Coke, which has 534,000 Twitter followers, saw a 12% increase in Twitter activity during the game.

That campaign was seen by yesterday’s speakers as something of a retaliation for Pepsi’s successful football advert during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The video, in which players such as Messi and Drogba played on a pitch created by hundreds of South Africans, was designed just to play online and became incredibly popular.

With that kind of competition between big brands, strong ambush marketing laws—such as those introduced by the UK ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games—are just one tool for brand owners. Everyone needs their own social media campaign.

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