This week Burger King announced a promotion on Russian social media offering women 3 million roubles ($47,000) and a lifetime supply of Whoppers if they get impregnated by footballers competing in the World Cup. This is an horrific own goal both strategically and morally. Burger King has not realised that sponsorship ambush marketing only ever works when it offers a credible, interesting, engaging, insightful and relevant proposition. The Burger King campaign doesn’t tick any of these boxes.
The challenge for brands ambushing big sporting events is that often their primary competitors will have official designations (Nike/adidas, Burger King/McDonalds, Pepsi/Coke), therefore the ambushing brands need to be extremely creative in differentiating to distract consumers attention away from the official sponsor. Burger King has taken a simplistic approach to shock rather than be creative which has backfired on them horrendously. It screams of a brand which is desperate and devoid of ideas by developing such a crass and ill-thought through ‘solution’.
Ambushing major sponsorships is not easy. Not many brands succeed, however few fail this spectacularly. As consumers become more sophisticated in their understanding of marketing and sponsorship policing becomes tighter, ambushing brands need to be more creative in how they cut-through. The few brands who succeed in ambushing either have existing credibility within the territory or have established themselves as being disruptors. Burger King have not achieved either of these two positions. In contrast, Paddy Power, for example, have a long and successful history of creating provocative campaigns and stunts to gain traction around major sports events. Importantly, they differ from Burger King on three key strategic imperatives;
- Paddy Power get close to the moral line, but they don’t cross it. Whilst the brand image is of a care-free disruptor, they clearly have very strict internal structures which dictate what is acceptable and what is not. Fundamentally their success is driven by genuine creativity rather than laziness. Burger King clearly do not know where the moral line lies.
- Paddy Power’s activity is positioned to be relevant and acceptable by their target consumers, which is solely adult. Whereas Burger King have exposed a significant number of under 18’s (who over- index in their targeting) to wholly unsuitable messaging.
- Paddy Power demonstrate a clear understanding of the sport and its fans through the tone and content of their activity. This highlights the shared interest and values between brand and consumers, ultimately generating trust and credibility within the territory. Burger King have only managed to demonstrate a complete lack of World Cup understanding.
Finally, we would question why a brand as big as Burger King does not have a system of filters to ensure the business is safeguarded against such monumental mistakes. However, if it does and this activity received full approval, you have to question the culture that currently resides within the business.
Through this campaign, Burger King has just told its target consumers that they don’t understand football and they are a desperate brand devoid of ideas.
McDonald’s 1 – 0 Burger King