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Marketing Rule Changes In Upcoming Olympics Gives Athletes New Opportunities For Personal Branding

By: Evan Fraser


The 2020 Summer Olympic Games are set to begin on July 23, 2021. With COVID-19 cases decreasing and the total number of people becoming fully vaccinated worldwide increasing, many are optimistic that the Olympic Games will proceed as planned. The Summer Olympics are very important for sponsoring companies all over the world. Businesses that sponsor the Olympic Games or even a specific country will finally have the opportunity to market themselves on one of the biggest stages in the world. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil drew a television viewership of 3.6 billion people. After a long wait of 5 years to finally hold the next Summer Olympic Games, it can only be expected that viewership will surpass 2016 statistics. The fact that fans worldwide are not allowed to travel to watch the games in-person per COVID-19 restrictions confirms that fans worldwide will be tuning in on television, streaming networks or catching highlights on social media.

You might be asking yourself what the significance is of the above information in relation to the topic of marketing. Coincidently, the correlation is immense and relates the extremes that companies will be going to with the hopes of gaining traction when advertising throughout the Summer Olympics. Being that this is the first Summer Olympics since 2016, the idea of influencer marketing within an Olympic Games has never been so prominent because of the digital age we live in. Many athletes that will be attending the Summer Olympics have partnerships with various brands to which they promote on a regular basis, often through the use of social media. Such brands are hopeful that their athletes will take some time to promote the brands they are partnered with, but to what extent can this be done at?


Before companies get too invested in marketing efforts for the Summer Olympics, they must follow the guidelines of Rule 40. The purpose of Rule 40 is to ensure that only authorized brands reference Olympic related terms through their advertisements. It is a by-law in the Olympic Charter that works to eliminate illegal forms of ambush marketing when companies try to link their brand with the Olympic name and its famous logo. Click here to learn more about the the criteria involved with Rule 40 in relation to legal marketing and advertising during the Olympic Games, specifically related to Team USA.

According to Rule 40 at the Olympic Games in the past, competing athletes have always been prevented from monetizing their name, image or likeness through advertisement prior and during the Olympic Games as per a ‘blackout period’. However, new for the upcoming Summer Olympics, Rule 40 does not have the same restrictions as they once did. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is now allowing competing athletes to generate income through their own personal sponsorships and partnerships. The IOC has outlined specific guidelines these athletes must follow when engaging in sponsorships or advertisements that appear throughout the duration of the games. Regardless of the criteria that must be met when engaging in sponsorship and advertisements displayed throughout the Summer Olympic Games, these changes are a step in the right direction to allow athletes to benefit off the fruits of their personal success.

With the recent changes to Rule 40, companies are scrambling to find the best ways to promote their brands in a legal manner. Unofficial sponsors of the Games will find ways to plaster their name and logo on several media outlets or through influencer marketing all within the regulations of Rule 40. As the restrictions involved with Rule 40 slowly started to loosen up at the previous 2016 Summer Olympics, brands such as Under Armour quickly jumped into action. Under Armour, a non-official Olympic Games sponsor aired a television advertisement prior to and during the Olympic Games with 23-time Olympic gold medalist and sponsored athlete Michael Phelps. Legal scheming such as this one undertaken by Under Armour will be one of the highlights on the marketing front for the upcoming Summer Olympics. We may even see Distinction athletes engaging with their followers while they compete on the world’s highest stage.



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