The Do’s and Don’ts of Olympic Marketing

The Do’s and Don’ts of Olympic Marketing

If you’re excited about Team USA, you’re not alone! But if you’re representing a brand, you might want to keep that excitement to yourself. Why? Because of Rule 40, a bylaw in the Olympic Charter that restricts public references to Olympic competition solely to sponsors that have paid for it. Because the Olympics are SO expensive, and sponsorship revenues help pay for them, the Olympic Committee is dedicated towards protecting the sponsorships it sells.

Here’s a non exclusive list of what non-sponsor brands can and can’t do regarding promoting athletes and the olympics:

They can:

  • Use marketing campaigns that feature the likeness of the athletes they sponsor, but cannot make any kind of reference to the Olympic Games and they must obtain USOC approval

They can’t:

  • Launch a new campaign while the games are in progress that features an athlete who is competing
  • Use any official terms like Olympic(s), Olympic Games or Olympian
  • Use other terms that could be related to the Olympics (crazy!)
    • Victory
    • Games
    • Medal
    • Bronze
    • Silver
    • Gold
    • Pyeongchang

Brands aren’t the only ones that need to tread lightly about Olympic marketing. Athletes are also expected to abide by the rules set forth by the Olympic Committee. Many (most) athletes have established sponsorship deals, but when the Olympic games start they have to be careful of what they say, wear, and do.

Here’s an non exclusive list of what athletes can and can’t do regarding brands and the olympics.

They can:

  • Share their personal experiences at the Olympics on social media
  • Share their own photos or videos
  • Use the Olympic symbol in a non-commercial context

They can’t:

  • Post or talk about their personal brand or mention any branded products
  • Mention or promote any organizations they support
  • Post photos or videos of the actual competition
  • Wear any branded apparel aside from official Olympic apparel

There can be serious consequences for companies and athletes who violate Rule 40. Athletes can be stripped of their medals if they violate the rule, and companies can face millions in fines. Even a tweet by a company as vague as “Go Team USA” could constitute a violation. While some bigger companies like Under Armor have found creative ways around the rule, it’s risky waters. Basically, if your marketing budget doesn’t include a 100-million dollar Olympic Sponsorship, you might want to wait until the games are over to show your support.


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