How to advertise against a direct competitor.

Comparative or Competitive?

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It’s Bathurst week once again and for the first time Supercars teams will go racing without a factory Holden team, as we explored last year in our brand loyalty blog Red or Blue? The Uniquely Australian Rivalry. It’s also the first event in 16 years that the naming rights partner of the Bathurst 1000 hasn’t been Supercheap Auto. Repco is the new auto parts and car accessories retailer ‘Bringin’ the Bathurst’ in 2021, and Supercheap isn’t being subtle about their loss. 

In 2021 when the change of title sponsors was announced, Supercheap had a VERY public breakup with the Bathurst 1000, running a series of ads created by The Monkey’s expressing their hurt and disappointment. 16 years of ‘Happy Bathurst Day’ has now been replaced with Repco’s ‘Bringin’ the Bathurst’, but the event remains in the heart of Supercheap as is evident in their latest campaign. 

Continuing to leverage off what is ultimately Repco’s awareness tactic, Supercheap have released their annual Bathurst campaign with a twist. The campaign described as “cheeky” by AdNews is a guerrilla marketing campaign where Supercheap now sponsors ‘1000 Bathursts’, following a ‘Spokesperson’ through the town and attaching the Supercheap branding to 1000 things in Bathurst. Supercheap Auto Managing Director, Benjamin Ward, said: “There is no bigger fan of the Bathurst 1000 than Supercheap Auto. We have been part of the Bathurst fabric for 16 years and it only makes sense that the next stage of our journey is to thank those people who have stood alongside us on the Mountain for all that time”, with Supercheap Club Plus members receiving a $20 credit when they spend $100 this weekend. 

But what is the motivator behind holding onto the event the brand no longer has direct ties to? Advertising in comparison to a direct competitor is nothing new. We saw Makin’ Mattresses do it in their ad, believed to be against Harvey Norman, Hungry Jacks with The Big Jack, Mac V PC and Pepsi running blind taste tests to identify themselves as the preferred cola against Coke. The discussions consumers have about these ads are arguably the most effective form of advertising. Word of mouth is an incredibly powerful marketing tool, and utilising other tools to encourage this is a tactic adopted by many in the advertising space. 

When adopting this tactic, it’s important to keep it comparative, not competitive. Leveraging off one brand’s advertising to create conversation amongst consumers must be done in a certain manner. So how do we play it? 

Rule number one - don’t undermine. Communicate your competitive advantage through backed-up claims and never mislead a consumer by deceptively influencing their purchase. 
Rule two - keep it light-hearted. It has to be comedic and fun for comparative ads to resonate with their target audiences and encourage conversation. 
Rule three - make it an even fight. Larger brands shouldn’t, and will never get away with, bullying smaller brands. Small brands can stand up to their significantly larger rivals, but it should never be the other way around. 

Now, Supercheap and Repco aren’t even comparing service offerings or products at this point. They’re simply in a battle of who’s the more deserving sponsor of the Bathurst 1000 event. The key here is the brand awareness they are creating for their target audience, who most certainly fit the motorsport demographic. For organisations with the right advertising budget, going to war through comparative ads can be a very effective move that pays off well into the future, with long-running conversations and fond memories of these ads remaining with consumers in the long term. 

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