Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter makes it into The Times today. But do sponsors of individual athletes know that they won’t even be able to tweet them a ‘good luck’ or ‘congratulations’ message?
The rule is there to protect official Olympic and Team sponsors, but I wonder how many companies sponsor an individual athlete because of the exposure they thought they could get around Rio 2016.
So, what is Rule 40?
Rule 40 prevents any participant in the Olympics (including trainers and officials) from using their name, image or performance in any kind of commercial promotion from nine days before the Opening Ceremony to three days after the Closing Ceremony.
This is intended to prevent over-commercialisation but clearly is also there to protect official sponsors and therefore protect the sponsorship value and future commercial income.
This doesn’t just prevent athletes from allowing their image and name to be used, it also prevents their sponsors from making any reference to them or the Olympics, even down to sending a ‘good luck’ tweet or even retweeting something the athlete posts, unless it has no reference to the Olympics at all.
Does this create the right balance between protecting the official sponsors and allowing athletes to increase funding by creating their own commercial arrangements? Probably not. Many athletes rely on commercial income in addition to the official funding they get.
As a sponsor of an individual athlete, having them appear in a world showcase event like the Olympics is very appealing if you’re in it to raise your brand profile. But Governing Bodies have a responsibility to protect the rights of the official event sponsors from ambush marketing.