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Olympic Athlete Sponsorship Deals and Rule 40

April 15, 2016, By

The International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) have relaxed the ban on Olympic athletes lending their name, image or likeness to advertising campaigns around the Olympic Games.

The IOC strictly govern advertising and sponsorship around the Olympic Games to prevent over-commercialisation of the Games, promote the focus on an athlete’s performance and, potentially most importantly, protect the value of the Olympics’ lucrative official sponsorship deals.

Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter sets out:
“Except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games.”

So this means that for 9 days prior to the Opening Ceremony until 3 days after the Closing Ceremony, athletes are not permitted to monetise their name and likeness – a prime time for the athletes of a notoriously poorly paid sport to generate extra income for themselves.

The IOC has now set out that athletes may now apply for permission to allow non-sponsors of the Games to use the athletes name and likeness in advertising during the restricted period around the Games, provided that the ad campaign has been running prior to 27 March 2016.

If permission is granted, the advertisers must not imply or create an impression that there is any commercial connection to the Olympic Games and can make no reference to the athlete’s sport or sporting achievements.

Certain words will be restricted from being included in any advertising unless it is for an official sponsor. Some obvious and some surprising examples that have been provided are:
Olympics, Games, Olympiads, Sponsor, Medal, Victory, 2016, Rio, Gold, Silver, Bronze, Performance, Summer, Podium

Brands will not in any way be allowed to reference an athlete’s participation in the Olympic Games, including reposting any message by the athlete that mention the Games or posting any congratulatory messages which mention any of the prohibited words.

Overzealous? Perhaps, but with over 35% of the IOC’s funding generated from official sponsorship – equating to nearly $2 billion during the last games – you can understand why the IOC would be protective.

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