My wife and I were sitting in our Lazy Boy recliners in our living room when we were possible victims of RAMBO hijacking the Super Bowl. I was working on some new blog posts on our Apple MacBook Pro and my wife was surfing the web on our Dell Inspiron while we simultaneously watched a Hollywood gossip show on TV. (Look for future blogs on the impact of multi-tasking on integrated marketing communications.)
While looking between screens I heard the word "Super Bowl" and quickly popped my head up to see the word "SUPER BOWL" superimposed across the television screen for an ad promoting the new RAMBO film. I hit rewind on the DVR to take it in a second time and hear the words "RAMBO - The Super Bowl of Action Movies." (I am sure some of you are wondering why the steroid fueled senior citizen Sylvester Stallone felt compelled to revisit his action hero glory days with new Rambo and Rocky movies. We can only hope that there was compelling market research demonstrating consumer demand.)
As I write this I cannot confirm if RAMBO is an official Super Bowl sponsor and has permission from the NFL to use this word in their advertising prior to the game or not. We will have to watch the big game on Sunday to watch for a RAMBO ad. If RAMBO does not have official permission then RAMBO marketing is guilty of ambush marketing and runs legal risk for Super Bowl infringement.
The practice of ambush marketing of being around an event or trying to be associated with event but not paying for it will be getting a lot of attention this year with the upcoming Super Bowl and the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
KFC did not pay the $2.7 million run an ad in this years Super Bowl but did offer to donate $260,000 to charity in the name of the first player to do a chicken-dance in the end zone. Significant cost savings for KFC if they get can get their name in front of the Super Bowl audience. Needless to say the NFL is not pleased when marketers try to gain advantage by being associated with the Super Bowl without paying for it.
The World Cup Soccer Championship has been at the forefront of this debate internationally and courts have upheld FIFA'S legal trademark rights to control the use of the licensing of the name and preventing others from using the name or logo without permission.
It is understandable that marketers would want to use ambush marketing to save money. It is also understandable that the promoters of significant events would want to protect and enforce their legal trademarks. The bigger question beyond the ethical debate and legal issues in marketing practice is do consumers perceive the distinction between an official sponsor and an ambush? Do consumer perceive ambush marketing as deceptive is this issue even on their radars?
The only reason I paid attention to the RAMBO ad was because I heard the word Super Bowl. If consumers find out that the marketers of RAMBO were drafting on Super Bowl interest and were not official sponsors will there be any consumer backlash or is it purely a legal question for the courts?
When Best Buy and other brands use the words "The Big Game" (completely legal) in their advertising to allude to the Super Bowl without paying for the use of the official words do consumers view this negatively?
I am betting that the Chinese government will be cracking down on ambush marketing very severely during the Summer Olympics. They will want to demonstrate their seriousness on the world stage with the larger legal issues of international copyright and trademark infringement in China. Keep your eyes out this summer for more serious attention on Ambush Marketing and potential consumer backlash if China clamps down too hard on offenders.
I look 4WARD to your feedback.
Keep digging for worms.