Ambush marketing: capitalizing on mega-events like EURO 2024

The 2024 European soccer championships will draw droves of people to the stadiums and screens. However, the fierce competition will extend beyond the playing field – and ambush marketing is the ultimate tactic for companies to leverage the hype.

Ambush marketing during mega-events
Image: © Dina Photo Stories / AdobeStock

A billion-dollar business thanks to advertising and sponsoring

Paris Saint-Germain paid 222 million euros for the transfer of striker Neymar. FC Barcelona is 4 billion euros in debt. And the market value of players in the Premier League totals 11.26 billion euros. Soccer is a billion-dollar business. And not just at a professional club level: this summer, UEFA is holding the European soccer championships in Germany, with revenue expected to reach a whopping 2.4 billion euros.

A large proportion of this revenue will come from marketing and sponsoring. The sponsoring and licensing contracts for such tournaments are fiercely contested, making them expensive and leaving marketers asking themselves whether there is another way – a cheaper way.

The answer is: yes, with ambush marketing! Using this method, your company can profit from the buzz surrounding the event, without becoming an official sponsoring partner of EURO 2024. In the following, we tell you how it all works, while making sure you don’t get red-carded for any trademark infringements.

2,400,000,000 euros
in revenue expected to be made by UEFA from EURO 2024

Use the air of excitement to your brand’s advantage

An ambush is a surprise attack. In terms of your marketing, that means you “hijack” major events like EURO 2024 and capitalize on people’s high spirits for the benefit of your brand, without having to enter into an expensive sponsoring contract. So, how does it work? Through skillful marketing – ambush marketing to be precise. This approach is identical to sponsoring because it lets you harness the enormous reach and attention generated by the tournament.

Good to know: Ambush marketing is sometimes also referred to as guerrilla marketing or criticized as parasite marketing. Because ambush marketing is an unconventional advertising strategy, it falls under guerrilla marketing.

If your company isn’t among the pool of official UEFA sponsors, ambush marketing gives you the opportunity to tap into the special mood of soccer fans anticipating a “summer fairytale”. To score the equalizer against the official sponsors who have been allocated exclusive advertising spaces, you need to demonstrate outstanding creativity and a feel for optimally timing and placing your marketing material. That applies both to OOH and digital campaigns on social media. For example, you could try to establish a link between your brand and the championships in the minds of fans by advertising near public viewing areas. In this context, playing on words related to soccer always hits the mark!

A heads-up: Is one of your competitors a EURO 2024 sponsor? Then an ambush marketing campaign is your chance to make sure you don’t leave them with an open goal.

Know the rules and don’t be caught offside

In soccer, referees keep the game fair. In soccer marketing on the other hand, it could be a court judge that blows the whistle on you if you infringe on a trademark. When running an ambush marketing campaign, you therefore need to make sure you don’t overstep the mark and get hit with a fine. With that in mind, the following marketing rule applies: the UEFA’s registered trademarks are reserved for its partners and are only allowed to be used by your company if this has been contractually authorized.

Here’s a selection of the main trademarks that should NOT be used in your ambush marketing campaign:
• The EURO trophy
• The EURO 2024 slogan “United by Football. Vereint im Herzen Europas” [United in the Heart of Europe]
• The EURO 2024 mascot Albärt
• Visual depictions of the EURO 2024 stadiums

So, to market successfully without getting penalized, you have to give free rein to your imagination. And that’s why ambush marketing campaigns are often more creative than official ones that tend to merely focus on the sponsoring audience.

Hit the back of the net with ambush marketing

Even without using registered trademarks, you can optimally leverage the hype surrounding EURO 2024 as part of your guerrilla advertising. For example, you could make general references to the tournament. But remember: you’re only allowed to merely state the fact that the championships are taking place; what you can’t do is establish a direct link between your brand and the tournament. What you can do, though, is make a general connection between your company and the topic of soccer. That will allow you to directly get in on the action at a meta level because your target group already knows that EURO 2024 is happening. There’s also nothing against you using a nation as an advertising topic.

Here are some potential formulations, campaigns, and themes for your marketing campaign during EURO 2024 (but be careful: it depends on the context!):
• “During the European soccer championships“
• “To mark the European soccer championships”
• “Soccer in Germany [or other relevant country]”
• Prizes for goals scored by the German or other national team
• Soccer balls
• Flags
• Soccer fans

By incorporating this kind of content, you’ll be able to run your campaign in the media environment of EURO 2024 – in the form of commercials, public viewing events, or brand ambassadors and influencers from the soccer scene.

Now’s the time to kick off your ambush marketing

Ambush marketing is your chance to get a slice of the EURO 2024 buzz. This opportunity doesn’t come around often – German companies have had to wait 18 years for another major soccer tournament to be held on home soil since the “summer fairytale” of EURO 2006. Fans can now finally look forward to watching a hard-fought competition – one where you can also go head-to-head with your opponents who may be hoping to profit from the tournament as official sponsors. Rise to the challenge and remember: although you don’t have access to the official advertising spaces or licenses, you can outsmart your competitors at a much lower expense simply by being more creative.

Digital Digest NL_en