Thursday, March 21, 2013

Two thoughts for association executives on opportunities of ambush marketing

Major events such as the NCAA's Final Four tournament bring out ambush marketing
Big events (Super Bowl, Oscar night and/or NCAA’s Basketball Tournament) provide ideas worth watching for association executives and marketers.

The Super Bowl showcases creativity (advertisers and the half-time glitz). The Oscar’s feature “the Red Carpet” and a big time show. NCAA’s tourney features nationwide “bracket busters,” office pools and three weeks of “madness.”

Most of these “big time” events charge megabucks for sponsorships and/or advertising. The television networks share in the cost and the loot.

Smart marketers find ways to connect with the hoopla of these events to fulfill their marketing strategies.

This year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament (also known as March Madness or Final Four), showcases what some are calling ambush marketing. USA Today recently ran an article headlined Running an Ambush on March Madness®  

Here are parts of the story:
  • 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.
  • As the price of sponsorship and advertising grows, it creates incentives to the ambush market, says Jon Swallen, chief research officer at Kantar Media. "I call that smart marketing."
Whether you call it Ambush marketing or smart marketing, the tactic raises at least two issues for associations:
  1. Are people in your industry ambush marketing your association’s events and bypassing your sponsorship agreements or licensing? Do you discover them running “off schedule” programs or news conferences before, during or after your conference? Do you uncover that they are holding independent “happy hours” or receptions? Are they using social media tools to capture your attendees and/or members?
  2. Does ambush marketing represent a strategic marketing opportunity for your marketing? What major events are “magnets” for your members or prospects? Can you discover tactics to use these events to build awareness, generate new members, reward current members?

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