Is the cheer cape a beer dress? That is the big question in the riot between the KNVB football association, Albert Heijn and Jumbo. The case shows the animosity between the largest supermarket chains in the Netherlands, but also shows that official sports sponsors, who often pay millions of euros to link their name to major tournaments, can do little against the so-called ‘ambush-marketing’.
Formulated more broadly, the central question in the conflict is: does Jumbo’s TV commercial – with the orange cheer cape of the party act from Brabant – harm the Snollebollekes – the commercial interests of the KNVB and its sponsor Albert Heijn? Just like Bavaria’s marketing campaign with the ‘beer girls’ at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was aimed at the official sponsors Budweiser and Carlsberg?
In 2010, a group of young women entered the South African football stadiums at Bavaria’s request, after which they suddenly changed into naked ‘beer dresses’ in the stands – in view of supporters and TV cameras. World football association FIFA, its sponsors and the South African organization were not pleased with the action; a number of women were even detained for a short time.
Also read this article: Stealing the show at someone else’s party
Ambush-marketing or guerrilla marketing: it consists of secretly piggybacking on someone else’s party without paying millions to become an official partner. Such actions are the terror of sports federations and organizing countries: they are even being asked to amend legislation to: ambush-to tackle marketing.
But is the Jumbo commercial with the Snollebollekes really a form of (illegal) ambush marketing? The KNVB thinks so. In a letter to Jumbo, the ‘partnerships’ manager of the union writes: “Jumbo tries to pretend to be a partner of Orange – without having permission to do so.” Jumbo would damage the interests of the association and its official partners “who with their financial contributions make the activities of the KNVB for the benefit of all football fans in the Netherlands possible”. The union demands that Jumbo stop the commercial with the Snollebollekes.
Jumbo replied that everyone can celebrate the European Championship and that entrepreneurs are free to conduct an advertising campaign aimed at the European Championship, using characteristic, free elements of the European Championship. Joining is not illegal in itself, according to the Brabant supermarket.
The KNVB leaves it at that. “We have expressed our views and we have heard their views,” a spokesperson said NRC.
Albert Heijn is one of the five ‘partners of football’. The four other main sponsors of the association are ING, Nike, Nederlandse Loterij and KPN. Orange sponsorship is popular, says Ad Maatjens, editor-in-chief of the trade magazine Sponsor report. The Dutch national team has a more sympathetic image than, for example, the Eredivisie.
According to Maatjens, Albert Heijn pays 2 to 2.5 million euros per year to sponsor the KNVB. Main sponsor ING supports the union with allegedly 4 million euros; Nike, also a clothing sponsor, with 8 to 9 million euros.
“The KNVB cleverly expanded its sponsorship a few years ago,” says Maatjens. “In addition to the ‘partners of football’, there are also domain sponsors, who sponsor women’s football, the cup tournament or the amateurs, for example.” Sponsors of major sporting events are not scarce, says Maatjens. If a company drops out, a new sponsor is quickly ready to fill the gap.
In the 2019/2020 financial year broken by corona, the KNVB received a total of 32.8 million euros from sponsors. That was almost 8 million more than the previous financial year. For 2020/2021, that amount is even higher due to premiums that sponsors pay because the Netherlands qualified for the European Championship. Other KNVB income, such as from receipts, fell sharply.
Mandatory representation of interests
“As a rights holder, the KNVB is obliged to represent the interests of its sponsors as well as possible,” says Marcel Blijlevens. He worked for media agencies and is an independent media and sports expert. “The letter to Jumbo seems a bit far-fetched, but I can also imagine that Albert Heijn is not happy with it. After all, they spend a lot of money on their partnership with the KNVB.”
Many companies participate in the European Football Championship, says Blijlevens, but being an official partner of the KNVB does have advantages. “You only see the players of Orange at Albert Heijn and the other official sponsors of the KNVB.” A panel of advertising experts from trade magazine Adformation thought Albert Heijn’s European Championship commercials were much better than those of the competition.
An important difference between an innocent hacker and a form of ambush-marketing is the intention, says Blijlevens. “If a brand knowingly and surreptitiously wants to give the impression that it is a sponsor of an event or team, that is in fact illegal. The case of the Bavaria dresses at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 is a good example of this. The organizing country had already introduced legislation for this in 2003. Furthermore, the regulations differ per country. The dividing line between ambushmarketing and plug-in advertising, is rather thin and vague.”
The reaction of the South African World Cup organization was much too fierce at the time, says Blijlevens. “That is also important: how do you deal with this form of marketing? It is often wiser not to react, or to laugh the matter away.” According to him, if you react too aggressively, you lose the sympathy of the public. Now that is already the sentiment that Jumbo likes to respond to. In its competition with Albert Heijn, the supermarket chain regularly emphasizes that it is a traditional Brabant and cozy family business.
According to market research agency Nielsen, the total turnover in Dutch supermarkets in 2020 was approximately 44.7 billion euros. Albert Heijn is the largest player with a market share of approximately 35 percent. Jumbo has grown rapidly in recent years and now has a market share of almost 22 percent. Budget supermarkets Lidl (almost 11 percent) and Aldi (5.5 percent) follow.
KNVB angry about Jumbo advertising
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