Puma made more British headlines last week during the Olympics than any
of the event’s official sponsors by paying Linford Christie to sport a
pair of contact lenses featuring its logo. Christie caused a sensation
by appearing at a press conference with the lenses as part of his deal
with the company.
Even though the International Olympic Committee banned him from wearing
them while racing, the stunt was an enormous success in terms of public
It was the latest example of street-wise marketers hi-jacking events
which other brands have paid millions to be linked up with.
Puma spokesman Dave Williams said the level of coverage Puma enjoyed was
not guaranteed, but when the gamble pays off it is a cost-effective
means of sponsorship. ‘You get the back page of the tabloids, it’s the
sort of advertising you can’t buy. What we were trying to do was
maximise our contract with a sportsman at the peak of his exposure.’
The move follows Nike’s use of tactical advertising during Euro ’96,
which according to BMRB International, raised the brand’s profile so
that one in four people believed Nike was a major sponsor.
Green Flag says its sponsorship of the England football team achieved a
higher level of consumer awareness during Euro ’96 than many of the
event’s official sponsors.
It paid pounds 4m last year to sponsor the team in a deal that will run
until the 1998 World Cup.
The exploits of the England team both on and off the pitch created
intense media interest. The Green Flag brand appeared almost daily on
the TV news and in the national press. And the brand appears to have
benefited from the exposure despite the controversy over mid-air drunken
Ben Pincus, a director at sponsorship consultant Lighthouse
Communications, says sponsorships will continue to be threatened by
offensives which try to steal the limelight - without parting with the
fee for official sponsorship status. ‘There aren’t enough global events.
Ambush marketing is going to become a much bigger issue.’
A hi-jacker’s guide
* Theme your advertising around the event. Get in early before the
official campaigns begin, and buy up key media sites around the stadia
where the event is taking place, as Nike did with Euro ’96.
* Use celebrities linked with the event for publicity. They’re cheaper
(Linford cost Puma pounds 1m whereas official Olympic sponsorship cost
* Disrupt rival campaigns. At last year’s Notting Hill Carnival, Lilt
was the official sponsor but PepsiCo caused a stir by joining the parade
and giving away 50,000 cans of Liptonice.