Are you poacher? Or a game keeper? Personally, I'm a poacher. So, when the big global sporting events come round every couple of years, I always look forward to receiving instructions to advise on a clever, cheeky, ambush marketing campaign. My partner Alex Kelham, on the other hand, is definitely a game keeper. She likes acting for the rights owners and putting down metaphorical mantraps to catch the naughty poachers, stealing rabbits from the grounds of the big house. In this case, the big house belongs to FIFA, and you can read Alex's excellent guide to ambush marketing here.
But when it comes to ambush marketing, this year's World Cup has so far failed to deliver. David Beckham may have decided to take the Qataris' money, but there has been a distinct lack of ambush marketing by companies that are not official sponsors, trying to ride on the coat tails of the World Cup. The most high-profile ambush marketing campaign has been the one by Brew Dog, which we reported here, and which was decidedly not an ambush marketing campaign. This year, it is the ambush marketers that are taking moral high ground, usually the preserve of the gamekeepers, and eschewing the opportunities for ambushes.
I was therefore excited to come across this ad for Vicks VapoRub, with an image of a football stadium and the headline 'Smells like victory'. On closer inspection, however, it's not really ambush marketing, as there is no suggestion of any connection whatsoever with the World Cup. Vicks have definitely played it safe.
What is striking, however, is the cultural reference. To an old duffer like me, the line "Smells like victory" immediately puts me in mind of Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore, played by Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now. He is the slightly unhinged officer in charge of a squadron of helicopters that attack Vietnamese villages while playing Wagner's Flight of the Valkyries through loud hailers. He also likes to wear a large, silly hat and no shirt, yet somehow manages to carry it off. In one of the most memorable lines of the film, or indeed of any film, he declares "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning. It smells like victory." Vicks VaporRub is great stuff, and very effective at relieving a blocked nose, but it was brave decision to make the connection with Napalm.
It certainly says something about the controversial issues surrounding this World Cup that the ambush marketers are giving it a wide berth. It seems they are the ones occupying the moral high ground. But with the bad smell surrounding this World Cup, you might be better off leaving the VapoRub in the medicine cabinet and keeping your nose blocked.
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