Already in its second week, there are a few themes running through the World Cup: for those interested in the football, the results obtained by minor nations against world power houses have been noteworthy; for those more focused on the spectacle provided by the biggest sporting event in the world, the vuvuzelas' incessant humming has given rise to mixed emotions; meanwhile, those interested in the business aspect of sports will have observed Nike's successful ambush marketing strategies.
Ambush marketing refers to a situation in which a company not officially affiliated with an event, the World Cup in this case, runs and ad campaign that links the advertiser to the event in the customer's mind without ever calling itself a sponsor, therefore creating brand awareness by association while saving the money that would have to be spent to secure official sponsorship status. Nike is but one example of a company engaging in ambush marketing, Dutch brewer, Bavaria, provides another highly publicized example.
Not only has Nike taken the World Cup by storm and turned attention away from Adidas, the official sponsor, through the thoughtful use of social media channels, it has gone a step further through the brilliant use of product placement on a scale not often seen. Much like the vuvuzelas draw the attention of the ears, Nike's distinctively purple and orange coloured boots catch the eye as much as some of the skills on display. While official statistics are not available, it is without exaggeration that it can be said that a significant proportion of the players on the pitch during any given match are wearing one of three Nike boot models that have the same colour pattern. The colour pattern is precisely what sets Nike's strategy apart from other boot manufacturers that simply see it as enough to get as many players to wear their boots as possible. By making sure that all models are of the same colour and by making sure that that colour pattern is as loud as possible, Nike has made sure that the spectator knows immediately that a given player is wearing a Nike boot without necessarily having to see the boat from up close.
Nike's advertising strategy for the World Cup is a perfect example of how to get new life from a tried and tested strategy and its competitors better realize, sooner rather than later, that mere product placement is no longer enough.