Just like the World Cup in 1998, the millennium celebrations may
fall prey to ’ambush’ marketing. And, just as in France, there’s not
much anybody can do about it.
For little more than the cost of a full-colour page in a regional daily,
guerrilla advertisers will be able to laser- beam their messages on to
Buckingham Palace, or even the Millennium Dome itself, shove the gear
back in the car and make their getaway faster than the face-slapping
So much the better if a few of Fleet Street’s finest can be bussed in to
witness the cheeky bravado of it all. And as long as the hijackers don’t
push their luck by flouting libel or trespass laws , it’s unlikely
anybody will take the time or trouble to pursue them through the
Nigel Mansell, Concord’s managing director, suggests that this is
anarchy as well as being unfair to legitimate advertisers. But even he
concedes that the genie is out of the lamp and cannot be put back.
As ambush marketing grows, so do the problems of ’policing’ the rights
of approved advertisers and sponsors. Witness what happened at the 1996
Atlanta Olympics when Nike set up its own hospitality and promotional
village and ran extensive poster campaigns near the main venues
featuring athletes under contract to it.
Nike paid nothing for associating itself with the games, yet 70 per cent
of people questioned in a survey believed the company was an official
sponsor. A survey before France ’98 revealed that most consumers didn’t
even know who the tournament’s sponsors were.
It’s easier to admire the hijackers’ chutzpah than it is to find much
sympathy for the Olympians or the leaders of world football who sold out
to commercial interests long ago, and whose avarice has rebounded on
One result may be that advertisers and marketers are going to be less
inclined to buy multi-million pound sponsorship packages - especially if
they feel they are not going to get a big enough bang for their
Maybe some will become ’hijackers’ themselves. And in an industry that
needs bravery and innovation if it is to continue flourishing, that may
not necessarily be a bad thing.