This summer’s World Cup in Brazil is about to become the biggest marketing and public relations bun-fight in history.

While nations will be going toe-to-toe in the battle for glory on the field, marketeers and brands will be doing exactly the same off it this summer.

And, just like in the beautiful game, tactics for scoring that most talked about marketing moment of the event may not always be above board.

In fact, the best ones almost certainly won’t be.

Ambush marketing finds a natural home when the TV cameras and world’s media kick-start coverage of world’s biggest sporting events – and they don’t come much bigger than the World Cup.

The 2010 World Cup was most talked about, outside of immediate football circles, for two stand-out stunts – Paul the Psychic Octopus and Bavaria Beer’s Orange Girls.

Sea Life in Oberhausen, Germany, won global fame with a “psychic” octopus who possessed the uncanny habit for predicting winners for games in which Germany were participating. Paul had a 100% success rate and became a media sensation giving Sea Life huge amounts of brand publicity on the back of the World Cup tournament.

Dutch beer Bavaria won headlines everywhere when more than 30 models turned up at the Holland v Denmark match wearing tiny orange mini-dresses featuring the Bavaria logo. The stunt annoyed FIFA and Budweiser (the official beer of the 2010 World Cup) to say the least but it succeeded in getting Bavaria barrel-loads of publicity. The company even gave away the now famous orange mini-dresses with packs of beer.

And the World Cup isn’t the only sports event to have been hi-jacked by clever marketing and PR high-jinx.

While the brand police were never more aggressive than during Sochi Winter Olympics, one or two clever marketeers, though unofficial, did manage to cash in on the occasion when opportunities arose for their brand that were simply too good to miss.

Zippo, the lighter company, was one of the first to ambush the event last October when it made the most of an accident during the Olympic Torch Relay.

When the torch was blown out by wind, a police officer re-lit the torch with a Zippo lighter. And the quick-thinking brand immediately posted a picture of the incident on its Facebook page – taking credit for relighting the Olympic Flame with the hashtag #ZippoSavesOlympics.

The stunt didn’t go down well with Olympic chiefs, who threatened legal action if the image of the torch was not removed. But Zippo scored once more when they obliged by replacing the image with a new strapline: “Zippo: Perfect for all winter games. Wink. Wink”.

The standard of ambush marketing has sky-rocketed in the last decade and we expect that bar to be raised once more during the World Cup 2014 event in Brazil.

Over to you Paddy Power…

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