5 Ways to Ambush Your Competition & Steal Gold

Photo by Craig Deakin
07.31.2012By

Photo by Craig Deakin

A lot of the action at the Olympics is happening far away from the athletes. The Olympic Committee has taken unprecedented steps to protect its brand against rogue marketers that want to align their companies with Olympic glory without paying a hefty sponsorship fee. Of course, that hasn’t stopped some companies, including Nike, from trying to steal Olympic thunder.

It’s not surprising that the Olympic torch had bodyguards as it made its trek across the United Kingdom. What you may not know is two of them were lawyers assigned to stop ambush marketing on behalf of unlicensed products.

Fortunately, your nonprofit competitors aren’t taking the same precautions. Which means you should exploit their lapse and ambush their programs, events, and ideas. Good fundraisers borrow. Great fundraisers steal.

Target their partners.

The best place to find your next corporate partner is in the arms of another. Companies partner with nonprofits for a variety of reasons, and the warm embrace may not be as mutual as you might think. If you can’t break them up you might be able to at least add yourself to the mix. Many companies support more than one nonprofit. You’ll have more luck targeting a business that already supports a cause than one that is new to supporting one.

Keep your enemies closer.

If you can’t beat your competitors, join them. Find a way that you can work with them that allows you to raise money. A few years ago, an investment firm I worked with wanted to host an event to support a cause, but they couldn’t decide which of their three favorite charities should get the money. We made it easy for them. We held an event that combined the resources and assets of all three charities and we each got $50,000. A third of something is better than all of nothing.

Piggyback on their events.

When I did marathon fundraisers for a Boston nonprofit, we ambushed the most famous marathon in the world–the Boston Marathon–by selling sponsorships to businesses that wanted to be on the marathon course but didn’t want to pay for an official sponsorship. As a charity, we were allowed to set up cheering sections along the course to aid our runners. Our corporate partners joined us and marketed their products and services to the large crowds lining the course.

Use your halo.

Being a charity allows you to get away with certain things. You can get stuff for free (or almost free) that others can’t. You get reduced rates on permits, licenses, and fees because you’re a 501(c)(3). A few years ago, Kentucky Fried Chicken ambushed the Superbowl when it offered a quarter of million dollars to the player that flapped his arms like a chicken in the end zone. A self-serving promotion for KFC, for sure, but not so unacceptable considering the money didn’t go to the player but his favorite cause.

Ambush yourself.

Analyze your own events and programs with the fresh eyes of a competitor set on ambushing your for profit. Special events can add cause marketing and raise money through pinups in the weeks before the event. Pinup programs can include multiple partners that will increase the reach and success of the campaign. Do it now before someone does it for you.

Ambush marketing isn’t for everyone. It takes guts and few scruples. You won’t win many friends, but you just might bring home the gold.

Interested in learning more on how your nonprofit can use ambush marketing? Visit my blog for a post on how one running shoe maker thumbed its nose to fat cat sponsors and event organizers, and ambushed the premiere event of the running world. Some great lessons here for nonprofits.