Tattoo Advertising

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Tattoo advertising is the new, edgy way for companies to advertise. Tattoo advertising is a concept where companies find participants that are willing to place a temporary or permanent tattoo on their body for advertising purposes. This trend emerged in the late 1990s and has grown significantly ever since (Rovell, 2003). Participants include everybody from average people to professional athletes. Today, thousands of people are lining up to be candidates for tattoo advertising. While participants volunteer to advertise for the company, they are payed for their publicity, the price in which they are payed depends on the size of the tattoo, how many other tattoos the person has, and where on their body the ad is placed.

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Examples of different places people place their advertisements on their bodies.

Reasons for Using Tattoo Advertising

Tattoo advertising is a very cheap way to spread word about a company compared to traditional media types. There is an upfront cost for the application of the tattoo on the participant and a small continuous payment to the participant for as long as the participant has the tattoo(Crockett, 2007). A strong benefit to tattoo advertising is its long-lasting impact on the viewer. Corporate logos on people’s bodies are not seen often, so it creates a much larger impact than a TV commercial. Tattoo advertising could also be seen as “rebellious” and “edgy”, which could allow a company to reach different types of consumers than it traditionally reaches.

Tattoo advertising could be very beneficial to new companies who are trying to get their name out in the market in an interesting way. It is a way to increase awareness for charities and non profit organizations. If people have tattoos of organizations in which people can go online and donate money, they may be more likely to go to the website and donate if they see the tattoo on them because they may think that it is for a personal reason in which directly affects them or someone they know and certain consumers will be more likely to help beneficial causes such as the National Cancer Society opposed to big corporations.

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Misty May-Treanor sporting her Gatorade temporary tattoo

Tattoo To Benefit a Sick Woman

Potential Risks and Drawbacks

A potential drawback of tattoo advertising is that it could affect the integrity of professional athletics. There are already advertisements placed all around professional stadiums and on commercials every five minutes; placing tattoos on the athletes themselves could lead to media overload for the consumer. Another drawback of tattoo advertising is that companies have a difficult time calculating the reach of their advertisement due to no hard data of viewer frequency or exposure.

Tattoo advertisements can also have a huge impact on a professional athletes fan base. If an athlete gets a tattoo for a company that certain people do not like or support, it can either make the consumer reconsider or cause them to not support the athlete as highly as they used to. Due to brand competition it can be risky for people to dedicate a part of their body to supporting a company and can cost the athlete other potential endorsement ideas and fan support.

Another problem with tattoo advertisements is that because many people are getting tattoos that are permanent, if the company were to go out of business for any particular reason, the person would be stuck with the tattoo and receive no longer be receiving any income for it.

Tattoo advertising is not a reliable means of attempting to increase sales. Depending on where the tattoo is located on the person's body, it may not be visible when they wear certain clothing items and therefore serves no use to anyone in proximity. The body type of the person can also have a serious impact on the way people react to the advertisement. If the person is heavy-set or less attractive, depending on the location, the tattoo could turn potential consumers off to the product and affect how they view the brand name. Another factor is that regardless of the product, not all consumers may be supporters of tattoos or may even have serious beliefs against them. Seeing ads on human beings when it is against a persons religion or beliefs could greatly sway their view of the company and decision to purchase their product.

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Could this lead to media overload?

Mocking Video About Companies Using Tattoo Advertisements

Reach and Frequency

Reach and frequency are huge variables when using tattoo advertising. Because companies are advertising on humans, their logo may not have clear and definite exposure to consumers on a daily basis. Companies pick their “human billboards” based on personal bios. This way they have more control on how often the tattoo will be exposed to their target audience. The more active and outgoing your human billboard is, the more reach and frequency the logo will receive.

Anybody and everybody can be a participant for tattoo advertising. There are so many companies that are using this method of advertising today, so even you can be a candidate for tattoo advertising.


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Promote your interest in tattoo advertising on websites such as this . Tattoo candidates create profile bios. These bios contain information such as a picture, personality, occupation, and amount of exposure to people on a day to day basis. Select candidate that you believe will be exposed to your target audience most often. Pay for the tattoo plus a set upfront price to the participant. If the company chooses a permanent tattoo, pay a yearly fee to the participant for as long as he/she keeps the tattoo.


There have been several large corporations who have turned to tattoo advertisement. When Blackberry released the long-awaited Storm, they turned to tattoo advertisement, which became the most memorable part of their campaign. A man tattooed the Blackberry logo as well as a picture of the Storm on his leg.

Gatorade is another company known for its tattoo advertising on athletes (Sims, 2002). Women’s Volleyball sensations Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh sport temporary Gatorade tattoos on their upper arm for every volleyball match.

"Billy the Billboard" is the most successful human billboard there is. He currently has 16 corporate logo tattoos on his body and counting. Billy charges fixed prices for specific areas of his body. A forehead tattoo on Billy will cost a company $20,000.

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Rovell, D. (2003, March 21). Fan billboards an idea ahead of its time. ESPN, Retrieved from

Crockett, D. (2007, November 26). Tattoo ads turn people into ‘walking billboards’. Retrieved from

Sadick, Dr. N. (2006, January 2). Tattoo advertising could lead to an increase in tattoo removal. Retrieved from

Dolliver, M. (2010, March 15). Probing the minds of 18-29 year olds. AdWeek, Retrieved from

Sims, A. (2002, April 1). Athleates sell skin space to advertisers. Retrieved from,2933,49197,00.html