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Home » Campaigns, News, Opinion

Ambush marketing in the virtual space

Submitted by on Tuesday, 22 June 20109 Comments

I’m still scratching my head over the fact that 2 people were arrested and one person lost their job over an ambush marketing stunt at the World Cup in South Africa last week.

This is what happened.

38 women dressed as Danish fans went to the game and then at half time stripped off and revealed orange mini dresses (the same colour as the Dutch national team). Because the women were of the super model variety they attracted so much attention that they were approached by the FIFA officials and accused of ambush marketing for a Dutch beer company who were not official sponsors.

The women were not branded in anyway, other than a small (tiny) logo on the side of the dress. The beer company had however paid for the 38 women to travel to South Africa for the stunt, so they were guilty but I’m not sure what they were guilt of.


  • If I go to game wearing a Pepsi tee-shirt (Coke is the sponsor) will they deny my entry? What happens if me and 20 friends happen to be wearing Pepsi tee-shirts.
  • If we were wearing black jeans and a white top will we be guilty of ambush marketing for Guinness?

The whole ambush marketing thing is interesting, what happens if I go to the World Cup and use a product like TagDis and leave a graffiti tag to say ‘Drink Pepsi’ rather than Coke. The tag is left in virtual space but who controls that, who would even know? In the future will we see teams of branding police patrolling venues with mobile devices looking for virtual tags and advertising?  Perhaps they already are.

Shortly after the incident a Layar developer created a layer placing an orange dress girl back at the stadium, however I’m unable to find the layer so can only assume that Fifa’s mighty reach stretched as far as Amsterdam and the layer has since been removed. Are we really living in a world where advertisers are so powerful they control the reality as well as the virtual space around us.

Orange dress girl

No doubt sporting events bring in huge amounts of advertising revenue so it will be interesting for events like the Olympic games and how they try to prevent ambush marketing in the virtual space.

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  • Tweets that mention Ambush marketing in a virtual world | Augmented Planet -- said:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Augmented Planet and jrdesign, Michael Sharp. Michael Sharp said: Ambush marketing in the virtual space: Is there international legislation to stop it? #digital #in #ar @AugmentedPlanet [...]

  • kazza said:

    Large events like FIFA cost billions of dollars to run. Without sponsors paying for it, we wouldn’t be enjoying the World Cup (or any FIFA youth and women’s tournaments). Ambush marketing incentivises not paying to sponsor events – no matter how outraged you are about what happened with the Dutch minidress girls, you have to keep this in mind when you observe the measures FIFA takes to combat ambush marketing.

  • Lester said:

    Hi Kazza,

    For sure Fifa have the right to protect the interests of paying sponsors. But where does that responsibility end?

    If I see 38 hot women wearing orange my first though is probably not going to be “mmm beer” , I’m not sure what crime was being committed other than wearing orange. Personally I think Fifa made such a big deal out of it they gave the advertiser more air time than they would have received if they left them alone.

    However the question is, does an advertiser have the right to own the virtual world as well? Should Fifa be allowed to control what augmented reality content gets placed around a venue? I noticed that the orange girl layer was removed so obviously they think they can.


  • Kasey Skala said:

    I think the real question is who owns the virtual space? This is unchartered spaces that have yet to be addressed. Even in today’s world, if I fly a PETA add over a horse race, technically, the airspace is owned/operated by an entity. Not so in the virtual space. I’d almost argue that that virtual space is public domain that’s temporarily occupied by the any/ever consumer the moment that they decided to run a specific virtual app.

    Interesting subject.

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  • Fabrizio Bartlomucci said:

    Users might want to use some anonymous service when they submit controversial information. The iPhone application I developed Virtual Tags allows for an anonymous tagging in tow flavors: the former saves the email address but does not show it and so would need a judge request in Italy – and everyone knows the speed of justice in Italy – to be discovered. The latter does not even save the reference of the poster and so the ownership is unknown even to the developer.

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    [...] Le cas de Total est présenté dans l’article et il y en a d’autres (« Ambush marketing in the virtual space« , « No Ad, quand la réalité augmentée remplace la publicité par des [...]

  • AR For Marketing Conference (29th April) | Augmented Reality - Good Things said:

    [...] Ambush marketing in the virtual space [...]

  • La réalité augmentée a-t-elle besoin d’un droit spécifique aujourd’hui ? | Augmented Reality - Good Things said:

    [...] de Total est présenté dans l’article et il y en a d’autres (« Ambush marketing in the virtual space« , « No Ad, quand la réalité augmentée remplace la [...]

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