Is guerrilla marketing dead?

11 Jul

One of the biggest talking points of the recent World Cup – aside from the controversial Adidas Jabulani ball and the constant hum of the Vuvuzela – was the ‘invasion’ of 30+ stunning blondes at the Holland vs. Denmark match.

Usually the site of a gaggle of glamorous Dutch girls dressed head to toe in orange wouldn’t capture more than an appreciative cameraman’s attention, but in this instance, FIFA were outraged and escorted them from Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium.

The reason? The girls were allegedly hired by a South African PR agency to promote the Dutch beer company Bavaria.  The Duchy dresses the girls sported has been famously promoted by Sylvie Van der Vaart (wife of Rafael) in TV spots and carries the Bavaria label at the dress’s bottom hem, which is deliberately subtle. However, Bavaria were not an official sponsor of the World Cup and with lucrative sponsorship deals in place FIFA decided that a group of supporters, dressed in this way, were not your average set of football fans but part of a crack team of guerrilla marketers or ambush marketers.

Guerrilla marketing in its essence is the graffiti of live marketing. It’s stealthy planned, ballsy and toes a fine line about what it can and can’t get away with. Its main aim for brands is to disrupt the status quo of an event or an everyday occasion and draw attention to itself and in this instance FIFA did exactly what Bavaria wanted them to do by giving the girls the red card. In a stadium of 90,000 people a team of 36 girls managed to get global brand exposure, for comparatively little cost against the multi-million spending official sponsors. One could argue that if FIFA had ignored them, would the stunt have caused the same impact?

There have been some great examples of ambush or guerrilla marketing over the years. I’m not talking about promo staff handing out a new chocolate bar at tube stations at rush hour but instances where brands have infiltrated occasions where they have not been expected. Some great examples are Linford Christie wearing Puma logo contact lenses at the Reebok-sponsored 1996 Olympics and more recently and prominently when three models from for cloths label Abercrombie & Fitch took prime positions behind Barack Obama at a Democratic primary election rally in 2008. Popular clothing range for Obama supporters, political spin to win a certain group of votes or guerrilla marketing?

But where do you draw the line? If a football supporter goes to a match wearing a Nike shirt when the home team is sponsored by Adidas, should they be allowed in? I look forward to see how the London 2012 Olympics will handle the situation but let’s hope the Bavaria show their support…



One Response to “Is guerrilla marketing dead?”


  1. Who really won the World Cup? « - August 12, 2010

    […] messaging and don’t notice them as much after their first push, whereas smaller brands such as Bavaria beer spend a lot less money on one stunt that creates a lot more buzz. In the end it looks like Nike won the battle by capturing the hearts and minds of the public and […]

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