The greatest show on earth has just ended. The Brazilian Carnival is an attractive event for sponsors and investors. It is a massive opportunity for tourism, hotel chains and marketing agencies, and always has a strong focus on the carnival parade held at Sambódromo and on the free street parades held all over Brazilian cities.

However, major events, such as carnival, also end up creating a problem, typical of these large events: ambush marketing.

What is ambush marketing? It is a tactic used as parallel advertising, carried out by an advertiser who is not the official sponsor of the event and which occurs without the authorization of its directors.

Considered an advertising invasion in media and certain means of communication, it is used as an “alternative” marketing strategy that seeks to associate itself with an event, organized or sponsored by others. Thus, the public ends up associating this brand with the event.

For this year, the City Hall announced that Rio de Janeiro's carnival would attract seven million people, including 1.9 million tourists - circulating more than R $ 4 billion in the marvellous city. Among these large numbers, countless companies from the most diverse branches of the market turn up to promote themselves to the public, often using ambush marketing as a strategy.

Such actions usually occur on specific days, for a short period of time and in places with a large concentration of people and / or a great focus of the media. They often involve the distribution of gifts, or the use of small stands for branding and advertising on the streets where the main parades will pass, which may seem natural and harmless in the eyes of event´s attendees, but in fact, often is not.

The intention of such companies is precisely that of “hitchhiking” at major carnival events in the main cities of the country and carry out promotions and advertising campaigns on the streets that, at that time, should only be carried out by the so-called official sponsors.

It is precisely through ambush marketing that these companies take advantage of the large concentration of people to publicize their brands in a much more affordable way - since unlike official sponsors, they deviate from the payment of licenses (which depending on the size of the advertisement, can reach millions of Reais), and also the fulfilment of a series of obligations established by the City Hall.

At the 2013 carnival, for example, a beer brand appeared in the background in images of the samba schools' vote count, while the official sponsorship of the event was by a competitor. Not to mention that, during every carnival, there are many companies spreading advertising material throughout the city – using newsstands, bus stops, and sound cars.

Already in the pre-carnival of this year, it was possible to observe numerous marketing activities other than those of official sponsors: transport applications, gum brands and so on.

It is worth remembering, however, that this strategy is considered illegal and a practice of unfair competition. In fact, ambush marketing has been increasingly challenged not only by the city halls of large cities, but also by rights holders before the Courts.

In this sense, the lawsuit by Ambev and the CBF against the brewery Cervejaria Proibida, during the 2018 World Cup is illustrative. At the time, the player Neymar - then a poster figure for the brewery - starred in an advertisement, playing football, in yellow and white uniform with the number 10. Ambev and CBF argued that this practice was a method of association with the Brazilian team, which was sponsored by Ambev, and therefore involved ambush marketing. Despite the brewery’s objections, the court determined that the advertising campaign had to be changed, since the visual set of the advertising campaign would be an allusion to the Brazilian team.

Every year, at this time, both the City of Rio de Janeiro and rights holders, notify countless non-sponsoring companies, warning them of such practice. However, for the first time, in 2018 the City Hall also began imposing fines on companies that promote, in an unauthorized way, advertising campaigns associated with carnival. On public roads - in that year alone, R $ 350 thousand in fines were applied to companies that engaged in ambush marketing.

Although there is still no specific legislation on the subject, the practice of ambush marketing is addressed in passing in the regulations of CONAR (National Council for Advertising Self-Regulation), which, in its article 31[1], condemns all kinds of advertising benefits obtained by commercial hitchhiking strategies and / or ambush that, without authorization from the holders of the rights involved, are promoted by invading media outlets.

In addition, in 2018 the City of Rio de Janeiro also signed a decree that instituted “Carnaval mais legal”[2], in order to curb unauthorized advertising actions during these events.

It is not just official sponsors who are harmed by these alternative actions. The quotas paid to the City Hall are reinvested in the carnival itself. It is therefore logical that: more investment from the private sector means less need for public coffers.

In the long run, the permissiveness of parallel and unauthorized advertising devalues ​​official sponsorship; as these major sponsors will rethink the advantage of investing millions of Reais, while other companies do not comply with the rules established by the City Hall to publicize their brands and, in the end, reach the same audience.

By devaluing official sponsorship, the greatest spectacle on earth, so acclaimed by revellers, is devalued. Everyone loses.