Ambush Marketing Should Tough Rules Be Introduced to Protect Sports Sponsors Term Paper

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Ambush Marketing: Should Tough Rules be introduced to Protect Sports Sponsors?

This is a paper that describes the concept of ambush marketing and outlines how it can be detrimental for the official sports sponsors of events such as the World Cup, Tournaments etc. It argues whether there should be laws for curbing this marketing tactic. It has sources.

Lack of business ethics is a problem that is of growing concern in the field of business today. Many individuals and organizations either easily forget or ignore ethical codes when they see business opportunities. This is an issue of immense concern because of the fact that millions of dollars can be jeopardized easily on the part of rightful contractors. Speaking more specifically, this refers to the manner in which sports sponsors at major events are denied their total rights over an event due to interfering investors. These rights are denied as the original and rightful sponsors pay million of dollars to associate their brands with a logo of an event, but may be overshadowed by other companies that also attain these rights due to loopholes in business laws. In order to protect the rights of the original sponsor there is thus, a need for stricter and more ethical business laws.

Business ethics has become an area of particular concern in the last 10-15 years due to trade seeing major changes globally. These changes are ones that directly affect the lives of the working class, and have raised a great deal of concern for millions of people. Under this kind of trade freedom, organizations perhaps believe that they are entitled to ambush big events. This may be asserted because of the fact that capitalist principles might well allow such interception or interference. However, from a business ethic perspective, it is asserted that such interception is unethical because holding an event sponsorship means that the event is purchased and owned by the official sponsor (s) and no one else.

It is obvious that tougher laws need to be made in order to mitigate or nullify the manner in which organizations (ambush marketers) try to infringe the rights of official sponsors in world events. An example of a sponsored event is the recent South African Cricket World Cup 2003, where millions of Dollars were invested. In such events, a country needs to have solid laws so that official sponsors are protected and do not have to worry about ambush marketers cheating them out of their promotions and earnings.

Ambush marketers can be described as organizations that intrude agreements made between an official sponsor and the host of an event. Ambush marketers usually take advantage of their rights to capitalize on business opportunities, and make the most out of someone's business deal. However, in this regard it might be said that ethical approaches to official sponsorship are necessary because of the fact that ambushing official sponsorship is unfair resulting in grave losses to those involved in a contract (Wells, 1995).

If official sponsors continue to suffer in the way that many have suffered through ambush marketing, very shortly there will be a shortage of official sponsors for major events. This is a very big possibility, and yet there are some that still sympathize with organizations that indulge in ambush marketing, believing that they are perhaps justified in approaching business opportunity in this way. They simply regard this as marketing forces or at least a representation of marketing forces. This approach may be the result of lack of opportunity, and also the desire to be part of a major event. Perhaps, ambush marketers believe that it is their right to intrude invents by perceiving denial of their rights to trade or share in the sponsorship of a major event (Schlossberg, 1994).

Some may even ask, "Are they thieves - knowingly stealing something that does not belong to them?" Or are they "Inspired marketers, neutralising competitive advantage?" And then assert that "all is fair in the cut and thrust of the marketing field" (Driving Business Through Sport, 2003). However, even if one really does want to call ambush marketing fair, it still cannot be allowed to carry on due to the fact that it will result in severe repercussions.

In an effort to try and avoid any repercussions and please potential ambush marketers, it might be suggested that sharing in sponsorship could be attempted. However, it must be realized that all organizations might not be willing enough to do so, as their credit could still be overshadowed. Therefore, having a single official sponsor handle the expenses is much simpler, as it reduces several intricacies.

One of the major ways in which ambush marketers may upset official sponsorship in an event is through sponsoring individual athletes. Quite obviously, these athletes will not be ready to strip themselves off their sponsors, as this might void their contracts with them, which would mean that after the event is over the individual athlete's sponsor would not continue sponsoring him or her. Hence, this is a loophole that needs to be taken into consideration, as this kind of situation has occurred in Olympic events where most participants are athletes who are sponsored individually. This means that there is a great chance of ambush marketing taking place, and also calls for business law to focus on these finer details.

In major events, it is already clear enough that ambush marketing is unethical, so, one cannot really make any excuses for these kinds of organizations no matter what form their ambush takes place and no matter how desperate they may seem. This is because of the fact that some may say that there may be unintentional ambushes, and these may take place due to athletes at events wearing tags, etc. that do not belong to the official sponsor.

Considering the supposed unintentional ambushes, it must be said that it is also common for athletes to have favourite sportswear, etc. that carry tags of another company other than the official sponsor's. However, this is something that annoys official sponsors because of the fact that they believe they have bought the entire event and no other company has the right to ambush. It may be asserted here that it should be the responsibility of these athletes to remove such tags from their wear and save a great deal of controversy. Since this removal of tags is desired by the official sponsors, it is a common pre-requisite for participants in an event to remove all tags that do not belong to the official sponsor. As ambush marketing takes this kind of form along with others in most countries, so far there are only few like South Africa that have taken appropriate action against it (Stotlar, 1993).

South Africa is perhaps the only country to take such strong decisions against ambush marketing, and this is exemplified in the way that they warned all concerned prior to the 2003 Cricket World Cup staged there. They announced, "Companies and cricket fans who plan to engage in acts of ambush marketing before or during the forthcoming Cricket World Cup are set to face the full might of the law" (Mokgola, 2002).

Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of giving trade and industry minister Alec Erwin the right to protect the Cricket World Cup and other events of similar magnitude against" (Mokgola, 2002). This action alone describes how serious the South African officials are about controlling unethical business actions. They have now even termed ambush marketing as a criminal offence, in which a violator of this law may serve a jail sentence. It is "a criminal offence to carry out ambush marketing"; "Lengthy jail sentences could await individuals and companies participating in ambush marketing activities" (Mokgola, 2002).

Existing law had already prohibited "attempts to pose as an official sponsor of an event, but the new amendment Bill criminalises any misuse of an event logo to promote a product not listed as a co-sponsor" (Mokgola, 2002). The body responsible for the cricketing event reinforced this as well; the ICC said, "officials of companies who use ambush marketing at the Cricket World Cup could face lengthy jail terms after new legislation in host country South Africa" (Donaldson, 2002). In addition to this, the ICC said that in order "To play in the World Cup, players must sign a controversial participation contract which protects the rights of the ICC's sponsors" (Donaldson, 2002). It must be noted here that it was this part of the ICC ruling that caused significant controversy in India. This is because of the fact that there are organizations that have virtually bought over few highly skilled players. These are players that are renowned and fall under the control of these sponsors. "Leading players, particularly from India" were "opposed to the participation contract in its current form as it" would "prohibit private endorsements with companies seen to be in conflict with official World Cup sponsors" (Donaldson, 2002). The ICC remained firm on their contractual proposals, and as a result all players had to conform…

Sources Used in Document:


Aaker, David. A. Building Strong Brands, New York, NY: The Free Press, 1996.

Donaldson, Michael. Crik: Ambush marketers face jail in South Africa. AAP Sports News (Australia). 2002.

Greising, David. "Run, Jump and Sell: Commercial Exploitation of Sports Explodes." Business Week, July 29, 1996.

Gwinner, Kevin. "A Model of Image Creation and Image Transfer in Event Sponsorship." International Marketing Review 14, 3: 145-58. 1997.

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