For the past two weeks, my brain and heart has been in full 2018 Winter Olympics-mode – constantly preparing myself for evenings and weekends spent watching that night’s athletes performing their best to get the gold they’ve worked so hard for.
Hearing the athletes personal stories and how hard they’ve worked and trained for this makes my heart full. When Nathan Chen fell during his skating routines, I gasped and my heart broke for him. I wanted to reach out to him through social media and say “It’s okay, Nathan! You’ll get it next time!”
When Chloe Kim became the youngest woman to ever win an Olympic snowboarding medal (not to mention the gold!) and the first thing she did was hug her Asian American parents, I wanted to send her a tweet and say “Yaaaas girl! Make your parents proud!”
These two amazing humans pic.twitter.com/KhWaH1vHRu
— Chloe Kim (@ChloeKim) February 14, 2018
Since our world (and let’s face it, mine especially) is consumed by social media on the regular, I naturally began to wonder if there was an opportunity for my clients to take to social media to share their national pride and wish Team USA good luck at the Olympics. On that same note, what can or can’t the athletes do as official sponsors for the brands they’re working with?
“Good luck to Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics!”
With a bit of research, you’d find that by even mentioning “Olympics”, “Team USA”, or “Pyeongchang”, you’d be posting into dangerous territory.
There is a bylaw in the Olympic Charter titled Rule 40. This rule “restricts public references to Olympic competition solely to sponsors that have paid for it.” What does that mean exactly?
Well, it essentially means that if you – a brand – plans to tie your social marketing content into the Olympics, you’d better plan to proceed with extreme caution when it comes to your phrasing and references.
It all comes down to money and let’s face it. Money talks. The Olympics are quite costly and sponsorship revenues help pay for it. The International Olympic Committee is pretty hardcore set on making sure that the sponsors get what they want since they’re shelling out such a large amount of money. In fact, the sponsors have complete and full freedom to post what they want, when they want, however they want and as many times as they want! (As a point of reference, the Rio Games cost over $13 billion and sponsorship revenues were approximately $848 million.)
— Odell Beckham Jr (@obj) February 14, 2018
Everyone else on the other hand, including the athletes, don’t have quite as much freedom.
But Wait, There’s a Silver Lining!
As a brand, just because you’re not Procter and Gamble, Visa, or any number of other official sponsors doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t wish Team USA good luck. Here’s the rundown of what you can or can’t do:
- Whatever content your brand creates must be pre-approved by the United States Olympic Committee, even as unofficial sponsors.
- You may run campaigns that feature the likeness of some athletes, as long as there is no overt or implied reference to the Olympics.
"Rule 40 is a by-law in the O*****c Charter stating that only approved sponsors may reference 'O*****c-related terms'." Alright, we'll play by your rules, O*****cs, but we won't be happy about it.
— Blue Point Brewing (@BluePointBrewer) February 8, 2018
- You can’t create any incorrect impression that you have an official relationship with the Olympics.
- You can’t use official Olympics terms, or even terms that suggest the Olympics in context.
As an athlete, the line is even shorter between what you can or can’t do.
- Share experiences at the games, including personal photos or videos
- Acknowledge the brands that sponsor them as long as there’s no reference to the Olympics
- Share information on their personal brand sponsors or mentioned products
- Promote any organizations that they support
- Share photos or videos of the actual competition
- Wear any branded apparel that’s not official Olympics-branded
— emma coburn (@emmajcoburn) July 26, 2016
So what does this all mean for us and the brands we work with as we near the end of the 2018 Winter Olympics and prep for the Closing Ceremony? That at the end of the day, brands don’t have to hold back their support for Team USA and all the athletes. They can show their pride, their support and wear it proudly on social media. Just with a few restrictions.
How will you share your brand’s support for the end of the Olympics? Leave a comment below or tweet at @ChatterBlast and let us know!