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Ambush marketing in sports: an attack on sponsorship or innovative marketing?

Gerd Nufer (ESB Business School, Reutlingen University , Reutlingen, Germany)

Sport, Business and Management

ISSN: 2042-678X

Article publication date: 12 September 2016




The purpose of this paper is to comprehensively characterise the interdisciplinary phenomenon of ambush marketing in sports, structure its manifestations, illustrate the consequences associated with ambush marketing and provide a critical evaluation from an objective perspective.


Various approaches to the definition of ambush marketing are presented and the objectives pursued with ambush marketing are identified. In this paper a new approach has been developed to structure the strategies and manifestations of ambush marketing.


It is a fine line between creative marketing and infringing on sponsorship rights. So the interdisciplinary phenomenon ambush marketing is discussed controversially. Ambush marketing is situated at the intersection of two opposing spheres of interest conducting a battle for shares of the marketing potential of a sports event. On one side there is the disparaging view of ambush marketing founded on legal and/or ethical considerations. On the other, the author has the respectful assessment of ambushers characterised by their innovative, creative marketing.

Practical implications

The analysis conducted in this paper leads to the conclusion that a general evaluation or condemnation of ambush marketing is not feasible. A four-field matrix emerges from the combination of a legal-statutory consideration on one hand and an ethical-moral assessment on the other.


The paper describes and structures ambush marketing in a novel form and discusses illustrating examples from major sporting events. Ambush marketing is evaluated from a neutral perspective by summarising the opportunities and threats of ambush marketing which leads to a nuanced contemplation of ambush marketing.



Nufer, G. (2016), "Ambush marketing in sports: an attack on sponsorship or innovative marketing?", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 476-495.



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