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Social Media Marketing Turns Into Ambush Marketing for March Madness

Sir Can A Lot and March MadnessMy how the world of marketing has changed especially as it relates to events and the social buzz those events create.

Gone are the days where a marketer had to consider dropping millions of dollars on event sponsorship to be tied to the event. Now if a company wants to do that they still can and there will be benefits (at least in theory). But now enter the age of ‘ambush marketing’. Why spend millions when you can live on the social fringes and leech some exposure for mere pennies on the sponsorship dollar?

USA Today reports about how some marketers are playing it smart and keeping sponsorship money in their bank accounts.

Savvy marketers are finding low-budget ways to digitally link their brands with the upcoming college basketball championship, but without paying huge ad or sponsorship fees.

In basketball, they call it the trick shot.

In marketing, they call it the ambush.

Even with March Madness — the National Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Championship — just getting under way, several savvy marketers already are trying to get a digital piece of it without the huge expense of sponsorship or in-game advertising.

Such familiar brands as Pizza Hut, Hormel’s Spam and even the Hooters chain are trying to link with the social and cultural buzz of the tournament — but are carefully stepping around any legal issues by avoiding the use of trademarked terms such as “March Madness” or “Final Four” in their marketing

Sound risky? Sound like ‘cease and desist’ territory? Not likely since these marketers are simply going to avoid trademark issues and refer to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in ways that everyone will understand but won’t require actually saying “March Madness” or something else that would make the rule happy NCAA come knocking at a marketer’s door louder than a ref’s whistle. Don’t think the NCAA isn’t paying attention either.

While the NCAA won’t comment on specific marketers it believes infringe on its trademark, the amount of ambush marketing “has been steady” in the past few years, says Jay Rossello, director of legal affairs.

As far as the marketers mention to take this kind of approach to March Madness, Pizza Hut and Hooter’s are two which make a lot of sense. It’s the third mentioned in the USA Today piece that raises an eyebrow and caused an audible chuckle: Spam. It’s so Monty Python-esque that it’s almost beautiful. Imagine all those college hoops fans who are, well let’s be diplomatic here, completely wasted on whatever getting a hankering for a hunk of Spam! If I were Prilosec I would be watching this very closely for a chance to ambush the ambushers, just sayin’.

While I couldn’t find the basketball video quite yet I did find this one where Sir Can A Lot is talking about the Foo Fighters Dave Grohl. If this is any indication of the ‘hilarity’ that will ensue with this campaign I might be done already.

Is this a brilliant marketing move or is it simply a workaround that leeches off hard earned brand recognition? Is ambush marketing a good term? What about barnacle marketing or sucker fish marketing? (By the way the real name of those fish that attach themselves to sharks is Remora. And you thought you weren’t going to learn something practical here? Have faith.)

What about just smart marketing? What’s your take?

  • http://www.facebook.com/cynthia.boris Cynthia Boris

    It’s just a sign of the times. We’re all tuned in to what’s trending – what we used to call water cooler buzz. If people are talking basketball, then advertisers should hop on that.This is the same as putting out movie-themed content during Oscar week. I don’t see it as fee avoidance, it’s just good business.