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Bentley University Professor Pierre Berthon Wins Best Paper from Business Horizons

November 2, 2010

Bentley University Professor Pierre Berthon won a 2010 Best Paper Award from Business Horizons for the paper entitled "Event Sponsorship and Ambush Marketing: Lessons from the Beijing Olympics,"  published in the May-June 2010 issue. The article outlines the "Li Ning Affair" - how major Olympic sponsor Adidas was ambushed by a lesser-known Chinese competitor, Li Ning, whose namesake founder lit the Olympic flame at the 2008 Beijing Olympiad. Berthon and co-author Leyland Pitt also draw important lessons for marketers in general, and advertisers and potential sponsors specifically.

"Sponsorship of large sporting and cultural events has become a major marketing communication tool, particularly when exclusive rights to the event accompany this and the hype surrounding it," explains Berthon, marketing professor and Clifford F. Youse Chair of Marketing at Bentley. "Concomitantly, ambush marketing - attempts by competitors to exploit the event - has also increased in prominence."

Using data collected immediately after the games' closing, the study isolates what the researchers call the "Li Ning Effect" - being incorrectly identified as an official sponsor - and the positive effects that this has on measures of brand attitude and recommendation. Seven lessons about ambush marketing are derived from the "Li Ning Affair":

Lesson 1: If an ambush were obvious, it wouldn't be an ambush: If a sponsor knew ahead of time what the ambush strategies would be, they wouldn't be strategies, and the sponsor wouldn't be ambushed.

Lesson 2: Don't always expect the property to look after you: Ambush control is not necessarily the task and sole duty of the property.  

Lesson 3: As with most things, don't rely on the government or the legal system to look after you: While most countries have enacted broad legislation to protect intellectual property rights - including sponsorship and copyright protection - countries may face challenges in applying or enforcing these laws.

Lesson 4: And it's not as if you weren't aware that you might be ambushed: Ambush marketing has become a common theme in the sponsorship wars that surround most international sporting and cultural events.

Lesson 5: Don't kid yourself that consumers care: Ambush marketing wouldn't work well, or indeed at all, if target audiences regarded it as unethical and shunned marketers who waylaid others; many consumers feel that, as in love and war, all is fair in advertising.

Lesson 6: Ambushees over-reacting to an ambush can also look like bullies: Dealing with ambush is not only about anticipating it - but also about what to do after the ambush has occurred. Firms taking strong action against individuals or groups of individuals are often perceived to be acting in an arrogant, domineering fashion.

Lesson 7: Being a sponsor alone won't do the marketing job for you: Sponsorships have to be supplemented by meaningful marketing communication efforts and resources if the investment in them is to be maximized.

BENTLEY UNIVERSITY is one of the nation’s leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader – one with the deep technical skills, broad global perspective, and high ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Our rich, diverse arts and sciences program, combined with an advanced business curriculum, prepares informed professionals who make an impact in their chosen fields. Located on a classic New England campus minutes from Boston, Bentley is a dynamic community of leaders, scholars and creative thinkers. The Graduate School emphasizes the impact of technology on business practice, in offerings that include MBA and Master of Science programs, PhD programs in accountancy and in business, and customized executive education programs. The university enrolls approximately 4,100 full-time undergraduate, 140 adult part-time undergraduate, 1,430 graduate, and 43 doctoral students. Bentley is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; and the European Quality Improvement System, which benchmarks quality in management and business education. For more information, please visit www.bentley.edu

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