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Hugo Boss Pulls Ambush Marketing Stunt on TV Networks

A golf-tournament watching family member pointed out to me this morning that Hugo Boss has pulled off an ambush marketing coup during the last few days at the British Open, starting apparently in the first round, by parking its hi-tech sailboat in the waters off of Turnberry, Scotland, where the tourney is being played, so that the cameras are forced to pick it up. (The picture at right is not as it appeared during the tournament, but you can tell from this it has rather large logos, don't you think?)

The appearance of the Boss boat was noticeable enough on TV that I found multiple references to it online, including this one from the blog of the U.K.'s Guardian:

12.11pm: The Beeb's [BBC] coverage is back in time for me to watch Tiger send arthreatening [sic] putt just past the lip of the cup on the 12th. "What's the story with Hugo Boss free advertising on the BBC? That yacht seems to be following Tiger," says flo1974. i'm not sure flo, but by merely posting your query I'd say the publicity is working brilliantly.
Of course, the BBC is commercial-free, so Hugo Boss' ambush marketing on the tournament raises thornier questions for commercial networks, such as ABC, which is airing the tournament state-side. No doubt advertisers paid a pretty penny to advertise on the British Open -- particularly anticipating the participation of Tiger Woods all the way to the final round, which didn't happen. Seeing Hugo Boss get arguably better exposure than they are -- because the boat is essentially incorporated into the programming, rather than being relegated to a commercial pod, has got to sting. The phones at ABC may be ringing off the hook with irate advertisers as we speak. (By the way, I've scanned ABC's site devoted to the tournament extensively just to make sure there's no sign of official Hugo Boss involvement.)

So, what legal recourse does ABC have? Well, that's the troubling part, and Hugo Boss no doubt knows this. Hugo Boss is making no claims to being a British Open sponsor, because, as this legal paper about ambush marketing defines it, the tactic "does not involve counterfeiting or the illegal use of trademarks, tradenames, or symbols." ABC's legal options may be severely limited. In the weeks going forward, it's possible that we'll see, at least, a flurry of angry communication going on between ABC and Hugo Boss. But that may be the best ABC can do.