Friday marks the Opening Ceremonies for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Despite all the controversy surrounding the conditions of the city, the Zika Virus possibilities, the crime or corruption in the country, and countless other complaints from Olympic athletes, back here in the United States (and around the rest of the world) we are all scratching our heads wondering how we are going to leverage the Olympics into our marketing strategies. Enter, Rule 40.
What is Rule 40?
You may have seen the hashtag #rule40 or something similar around the social media webs in the past week. That’s Rule 40, set by the International Olympic Committee. It started on Wednesday, July 27th and ends after the Games are over, August 24th. Basically, no non-official IOC sponsors are allowed to post any images or likeness of Olympic athletes, including anyone they sponsor or support, or use certain Olympic trademarked hashtags. Yes, there are protected hashtags. And, your business (most likely) cannot use them.
Rule 40 was created by the IOC in order “to preserve the unique nature of the Olympic games by preventing over-commercialization” and to protect the Olympic sponsors, who spend millions of dollars for exclusive marketing rights during the Olympics. It prevents athletes from talking about their own sponsors. That means they can’t talk about their sponsors on TV…but also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and all the other social mediums out there.
If you are a business, even if you sponsor an Olympic athlete, you can’t mention their name, use their photo, or their likeness (think: a character drawing) in your social media posts. For an entire month. So, congratulations to XX for winning the Gold Medal! What a drag.
What Does This Mean for Non-Sponsors?
Under Rule 40, non–official sponsors are not allowed to use the following phrases in any sort of advertising: 2016 Rio; Rio de Janeiro; Gold; Silver; Bronze; Medal; Effort; Performance; Challenge; Summer; Games; Sponsors; Victory; Olympia; Olympic; Olympics; Olympic Games; Olympiad; Olympiads and the Olympic motto “Citius – Altius – Fortius.” That includes as hashtags on social media. Well, that is a real bummer because how are we supposed to cheer on Team USA then?
There are ways around the Rule, but they are cheesy and you’re going to have to use your creativity. For instance, an apparel company out of the Pacific Northwest, Oiselle, started using phrases such as “Big Event in the Southern Hemisphere” to refer to the Olympics. Good one!
Additionally, you can use your personal social media accounts to post whatever you want. So, you can try to post on your account and share it to your business account. I’m not entirely sure if this is a violation as the content is NOT from the company. But, it’s worth a shot. If you are a small company, the IOC may and will still send you a warning message so don’t think that you are exempt in any way.
Unless you’re a cocaine dealer in Rio de Janiero. Because, woah.
What Can We Do?
Brooks, the athletic shoe company, secretly launched (it’s not secret anymore) www.rule40.com. Please feel free to visit this website to better understand the impact Rule 40 has on the athletes participating in the Summer Games as well as their sponsors. As Americans, we all just want to support the athletes that are representing our country at the top level of international competition. Can we really not do that..because… money?