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The benefit of billboard brand rivalry

For a brand, a well done rivalry can create awareness, as well as presenting brand characteristics such as confidence, intelligence, wit and a sense of humour.

Here I’ve included two of the best rivalries carried out on outdoor billboards. Although these examples may be local, social media allows a local rivalry to garner national and international attention, and enables local brand positioning to be harnessed for a wider audience.

1) AUDI vs. BMW

The first involves Audi and BMW in one of the most famous examples of billboard rivalry, which has played out over many of the companies’ adverts.

This particular example took place in 2009, when Audi placed a billboard advert that looked to show it had upped its game, had become the leading standard for Luxury, and that it was now for Audi’s competitors to catch up.

“Your move, BMW”

Enter the local BMW dealer. They responded brilliantly by placing a billboard advert on the opposite side of the motorway, introducting a chess theme by inverting the black and white colours used in Audi’s billboard. It’s a credit to BMW’s marketing teams that they had the nimbleness to approve a local advert so quickly, allowing the local dealer to take charge without requiring it to be centralized or part of a national campaign.


This is a prime example of BMW using this billboard rivalry to present brand character: sleek; confident; humourous; classy. Audi meanwhile also shows confidence; shows its prepared to play at the top. Yet it does so in a different style: less regal yet cheekier, and more exciting and energetic fashion. These brand personalities continued to show through when Audi embraced what had now become a game of chess by taking the last available billboard space to showcase their ‘king’, the Audi R8 model. Yet BMW won this particular roadside duel, getting round the lack of billboard space by placing a zeppelin above the billboards, referencing BMW’s involvement with the ultimate in car engineering: Formula 1.

“Your pawn is no match for our king”-Audi. “Game over”-BWM

This developing game of chess no doubt became a source of fun and intrigue for regular commuters along the motorway, attracting their attention as well as word of mouth and news coverage. All of the intrigue, attention and news coverage will of course have centred around Audi and BMW. For both brands, this was therefore a game of chess that had no loser.

The fact that this wasn’t the first or last ‘battle’ between the two companies (as shown by these two examples from 2006) is ample evidence that that neither party views their rivalry as detrimental.



The confidence and awareness brought by a strong rivalry can also position the brands involved as de-facto market leaders, as is the case in my second example.

2) Pepsi vs Coca-Cola

In the words of PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi in reference to a strong rivalry between Pepsi and Coca-Cola in the Indian market, “Isn’t it great that two US-based multinationals…are showing their confidence in India?…Thats the sort of discussion we should be having – not C versus P, which is irrelevant

Over halloween 2013, Pepsi released its “We wish you a scary halloween” advert, in which a Pepsi can wears a Coca-Cola cape. Coca-Cola responded by using the same image, and changing the caption to “Everybody wants to be a hero”

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo rivalry

Once again, this particular advert conveys a cheeky confidence of Pepsi’s brand personality, and a calm confidence of Coca-Cola’s brand. But as Nooyi says, a crucial aspect is that it shows confidence from both brands. There is an inherent risk in a market leader attacking an also-ran, given the potential for it to lead the public into thinking the also-ran is ‘in the game’. But in the case of Pepsi and Coca-Cola, by ensuring that this game is played out solely between these two brands, it cements the idea that other colas (of which there are several in India) are simply not in the big league.

A billboard brand rivalry not only communicates brand confidence, but it can also position the participants as market leaders by creating their own ‘premier league’ brand battle. Even strong and long-running rivalries may be friendly after all.

References: Beverage Daily 

Pictures from: Google images

1 comment
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