Dutch-brewer Bavaria put the word guerrilla marketing on everybody lips during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. It’s an example from a long list of guerrilla marketing actions during big sports events and this list will grow and grow. Because guerrillero’s will always find new ways to infiltrate blockbuster sport platforms successfully. What FIFA, IOC or main sponsors try to stop them.
O yes. This is guerrilla marketing in the truth sense of the word. If you attack your competitor literally on the street. Alike guerrilleros suddenly emerge from the shrubs to take their enemy by surprise. Such a hit and run action from a David against a Goliath arouses always big applause. Especially when your guerrilla attack is dressed up in a sympathetic way. Like the Dutch supermarket Dirk van den Broek did in 2005.They placed on the parking space of other superstores a so-called `Kassamobiel’. A converted former driving hypermarket in which customers could recalculate their purchases and discover whether or not Dirk was cheaper. The guerrilla was front page news in the biggest newspapers from the Netherlands.
Also sympathetic was the guerrilla-attack of the local coffee chain Auckland Coffee in New Zealand. They transformed public trash cans into coffee jugs. Around was written: `Coffee taste like crap?’ Follow that direction for a good cup or Java. Off course Auckland Coffee only redressed trash cans in front Starbucks-establishments. Or they just placed the jugs there. That some Starbucks-employees try to remove the texts from the trash cans made the guerrilla from this local coffee-Thumbling against a worldwide coffee player even more sympathetic.
The fun becomes even better when you attack Goliath on a stage that draws thousands if not millions of peoples. Think about this. Nike is the official sponsor of the Olympic Games in London. All of a sudden the Puma-ceo enters down from the sky in the stadium in which the Olympic flame is about to light. Then everybody doesn’t talk about Nike, but Puma.
Impossible? It already happened. During the opening ceramics of the 2008 Beijing Olympics by Li Ning. He was hoisted to the top of the Bird’s Nest Stadium to light the Olympic flame. Ling is one of China’s greatest athletes; he won six medals at the 1984 Olympics. But he is also the face of China’s largest sports retailing firm which bears his name. In other words: he exposed during the opening ceremony his company to thousands of people and to billions of television viewers. IOC-sponsor Adidas was dazzled. The company stock raised more than 7 percent and the value of Li Ning’s personal holdings about $40 million. That’s really worth a guerrilla.
In 1996 Nike tackled the IOC during the Olympic games in Atlanta. Nike plastered the city in billboards, handed out swoosh banners and erected an enormous Nike center overlooking the stadium, saving US$ 50 million that an official sponsorship would have cost. The guerrilla devastated the IOC’s credibility and spooked other organizations such as FIFA into adopting more assertive anti-guerrilla strategies. By the way: in the same year Nike attacked Adidas during the Berlin Marathon. In Europe at that time the brand had a bad press ‘cause of child labor and other not so friendly People, Planet en Profit-practices. So Nike could use some good
publicity. For that reason it picked in 1996 the oldest participant of the Berlin Marathon, the 78-year old Heinrich Blümchen from the German town Herford. Nike poured him in a complete Nike-outfit and along the parcours they placed`Go Heinrich hung Go’, `Berlin loves Heinrich’ and `Just do it Heinrich’-chalkboards. There was a Heinrich newspaper and a Heinrich interview during the course, and yes, he became the hero of the marathon of Berlin and even overshadowed the winners of the official run. All the camera’s targeted him and the swooshes he carried on his shirt, shorts, socks and shoes, and almost every spectator thought that Nike was the main sponsor of the marathon. But that was Adidas. Not with a smile.
The list of guerrilla marketing examples during big sport events is long. Especially beer brands show then often their best guerrilla-side. During the Olympic Games of 2002 in Salt Lake the small and local Shirf Brewery covered their establishment carriages with the slogan: `Wasutch beers. The Un-Official beer. 2002 winter Games’. Without Olympic rings and the use of the word Olympic. That was the privilege of main sponsor Anheuser-Busch. Heineken came during the European Cup Soccer 2004 Portugal with the so-called loudspeaker cap.Intended for supporters to encourage the Dutch Team. The cap was forbidden in the stadiums after one game. Because it carried the label Heineken. Judged sponsor Carlsberg. So Heineken invented a new trick. For the World Cup Soccer 2006 in Germany: the ‘Jagershoedje’.It looked from the outside like a typical German hat but carried inside an extending loud speaker with again the name Heineken on it. A rabbit that suddenly appeared from a hat. FIFA-sponsor Anheuser-Busch said at one: verboten. No problems. Heineken was on everybody’s mind.
Dutch brewer Bavaria followed Heineken with a guerrilla marketing during the same World Cup Soccer with the ‘Lionhose’. Orange trousers resembling a Lederhose with a liontail –Orange is the color of all Dutch country teams, the lion is the symbol of the Netherlands. Bavaria was not allowed to distribute the Lionhose near the stadiums, said FIFA. And again, no problem. The brand got what it wanted. Loads of publicity.
Just like during the World Cup in South Africa 2010 with their Bavaria Babes. A bunch of good looking babes that danced very enthusiastic in a tight orange dress. On the dress was a tiny label with the brand name attached. The babes did their moves in a stadium during a practise match before the World Cup and again during the first match of the Dutch team. Nobody would have noticed them if the FIFA didn’t make a big fuss about it. More strongly, FIFA put Bavaria in the spotlight by arresting the women and throw them in jail. And suddenly the beer brand got all the international attention they wanted. Even CNN and The Wall Street Journal reported about their guerrilla marketing attack. Okay, Bavaria got fined by the FIFA; the brand isn’t allowed to take any guerrilla marketing actions during FIFA World Cups for the next 12 years. And so organizers of big (sport) events get more and more protective. That will leave for guerrilla marketing less space, they aspect. London 2012 even developed a special law, the London Olympic act, which must prevent guerrilla marketing. But truly inventive guerrilla marketing always wins. Because it always comes by surprise. No law can stop surprises.