military ambush

5 greatest Ambush Marketing success stories of 2015


– By Joy Sekhri



Imagine it’s your birthday; you are hosting a house party for which you are dressed to a tee and  are ready to put your best foot forward to impress your guests. And to your horror you are not the one who everyone is talking about! Instead the star of the evening is a person you dislike and is the one you actually wanted to outdo as the center of attention.

How would you feel?

ambushed and crying

Cheated? Hijacked? Or Ambushed?

Now think about brands, when they spend millions on campaigns and events for promotions but their rivals or relatively smaller brands totally steal their thunder with bare minimum branding or marketing spends.

This is called Ambush Marketing or Ambush Advertising. It is a marketing strategy whereby a brand, while advertising, “ambushes” a competitor’s campaign/advertising/promotional event to compete for exposure against the rival  brands advertising for similar products or services. The term ‘Ambush Marketing’ was coined by the marketing strategist Jerry Welsh, while he was leading the global marketing efforts for American Express in the 1980s.

Ambush Marketing is a form of associative marketing, utilized by an organization to capitalize upon the awareness, attention, goodwill, and other benefits, generated through an association with an event or property, without having an official or direct connection with the same.

This form of marketing came to the forefront in 1980s during the Olympics (USA,1984) when Kodak used a clever ambush tactic and became the sponsor for the television broadcasting whilst Fiji was the official sponsor of the games. (Read about its History)

Today, brands have started to become more open to challenging their competitors, especially in the industries and markets where there are 2-3 major players; such as Pepsi vs Coke, BMW vs Audi vs Mercedes. The brands who have recently joined the ambush marketing bandwagon are eCommerce giants such as Snapdeal, Amazon and Flipkart

Here’s a sneak peak at 5 Ambush marketing campaigns from 2015-16 which really rocked the advertising world with their smart and quirky ambush tactics:

1.  130 years old Mercedes wishes BMW on its 100th anniversary

BMW is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016 with a big bash in Munich and Mercedes Benz, BMW’s arch rival felt they should gate crash the centennial party.

mercedes ambushes bmw

The pre- started trolling BMW with not-so-congratulating cheeky ads in German newspapers (image below) using an image of the iconic BMW kidney grilles with the German text that reads:

“Thanks for 100 years of competition. The previous 30 years were somewhat dull.”

Mercedes also extended its greetings to  BMW with a 10 second video on Instagram.

If this was not all, Mercedes thought of throwing a party for BMW at the Mercedes-Benz Museum with an invitation from March 8th to 13th 2016, where BMW employees got to enjoy free admission to the museum in Stuttgart to “discover the complete history of the automobile.” Those arriving in a BMW were given free parking at a prominent position right outside the entrance to the museum. A restaurant at the museum was all set to serve a special Swabian specialty for the first 50 BMW employees at the end of their museum tour of 130 years of automotive history.

Now that’s stiff competition!…Would be interesting to see BMW’s counter campaign


2.  Newcastle Brown Ale failed attempt to disguise as a chips brand

Brands pay up to $45 million dollars for a 30 seconds ad at the Super Bowl but Newcastle Brown Ale certainly did not want to be one of them. So the brand created an ad pretending to enter a contest hosted by a famous tortilla chip maker for amateur ads generated by consumers.

They came up with an ad inserting the Newcastle brand where ever possible with a few mentions of tortilla chips all through the ad’s run time. The ad was launched on Youtube Wednesday. For obvious reasons the ad didn’t get selected but Newcastle wanted to cite reasons why they didn’t make it hence came up with a very innocent behind-the-scenes video.

Super Bowl or no Super Bowl, Newcastle managed to steal the limelight, like they do every year!


3.  PepSico I LOVE YOU…From

On January 11th, 2015, an organization named SumOfUs released a video titled A Cheesy Love Story – The Ad Doritos Doesn’t Want You to See” The video was aimed at propagating a strong message through its self-explanatory punch line, “Doritos: May Contain Traces of Rainforest,” and accuses the snack producer of destroying rainforests in Southeast Asia by turning them into massive palm oil plantations. The video was released to ride on the campaign Doritos launched during the 2015 Super Bowl.

PepsiCo fought back against the alleged accusations with a following statement from their spokesperson Jay Cooney. “It is no surprise that SumofUs’ continual mischaracterizations of our palm oil commitments are patently false and run counter to the positive reception our policies have received from expert organizations in this arena. PepsiCo has repeatedly stated that we are absolutely committed to 100 percent sustainable palm oil in 2015 and to zero deforestation in our activities and sourcing. This latest public relations stunt, focused on fiction rather than facts, does nothing to foster positive dialogue or affect positive change. We find our policies effective and stand by them.” 

 The video managed to get more than a million views in just 5 days and got a lot of support from people on social media.


4.  Snapdeal ambushes Flipkart’s Billion day thunder; as Amazon is left amazed

It’s not new for ecommerce players in India to troll each other; in fact all the three market leaders Amazon, Snapdeal and Flipkart have openly challenged each other with their creative campaigns; remember #AchchaKiya, #AchchaKiyaBataDiya & #YahanDekhlo hashtags (read here).

But in October 2015, competition among the rivals moved to another level, when the brand war moved to print during the Diwali festival season sale where all the brand biggies were not only present on the front page of leading dailies in India, but were also creatively trolling each other with witty content.

Amazon announced  “The Great Indian Festive Sale” on Hindustan Times, Mint, Times of India and Navbharat Times; Flipkart promoted its sale ‘Big Billion Days’ by taking over the front and back pages of The Times of India, Hindustan Times and Dainik Bhaskar. ‘Abhi Nahin toh Kabhi Nahin’ is what Flipkart reminded its consumers. But the one that stole the show was Snapdeal with its creativity and wit as they released a clever ad campaign by taking a dig at both its rivals – Flipkart and Amazon. The full-page ad appeared in The Times of India’s third page, which read ‘ You don’t need a BILLION offers to amaze you. You just need to snap the best ones. For the best offers this Diwali, shop only on Snapdeal’.


We can’t comment on which brand got the maximum sales but Snapdeal definitely won the Ad war over Flipkart and Amazon.

snapdeal ambush marketing
Snapping back!

5.  Brand Factory vs. Snapdeal/Amazon/Flipkart

Whilst eCommerce giants are busy fighting with each other, India’s largest chain of “Fashion Discount Stores” Brand Factory (by Future Group) came up a with a not-so-subtle campaign that says “Stop Looking Online”.

future group ambushes etailers

The campaign is cheeky and straight forward and this is for the first time in India that an offline retail store has challenged online stores. This gutsy campaign definitely trolled eCommerce giants royally.

Spread the word!
Find us at -

2 thoughts on “5 greatest Ambush Marketing success stories of 2015

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *