Let’s hope that executives from Toyota, the AFL’s major brand partner, didn’t look to the Heavens for guidance or support during Saturday’s Grand Final. Hovering over the MCG for the entire event was the Holden airship, performing one of the most blatant ambush marketing manoeuvres seen in Australia.

It barely left the MCG airspace and occasionally caused a giant shadow to float across the ground, which must have been disconcerting for the players. Blogger anonymouslefty claimed today that radio commentator James Brayshaw, who knows where his bread is buttered, continually referred to the blimp as the “Toyota blimp”. As anonymouslefty put it: “”Daddy, why is Toyota advertising the new Holden Commodore on its blimp?”

AFL officials must have been wishing they’d booked the Roulettes so they could have dealt with the problem once and for all. But apparently we shouldn’t worry too much about Toyota’s feelings. “We weren’t concerned”, says Mike Breen, Manager of PR at Toyota. “Holden has their way of doing marketing and we have ours”.

MCG management however says it will be supportive of future advertisers who are more fazed than Toyota, with a commitment to helping event partners “limit the effectiveness of ambush marketing activities above the MCG on major event days”.

The absence of a no fly zone is of real concern to Cricket Australia, which is heading into a massive Ashes summer with Ford as a major partner. James Sutherland, CEO of Cricket Australia, has already written to all relevant state sport ministers asking that they consider giving the same protection to the air space of the MCG and other Ashes venues during the cricket season that was in place during the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.

Peter Young, General Manager of Public Affairs at CA, says Holden’s effort on the weekend was bad form. “It’s just un-Australian to try and sneak a free ride off the back of someone else’s work,” he said, pointing out that in more practical terms, it would become harder to attract major sponsors to pay for big events if those sponsorships can be so easily and blatantly undermined.

Peter Fray

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