Rule change to boost Olympian brand deals
Olympians and their personal commercial partners will be able to continue marketing activities through the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, as the International Olympic Committee relaxes the contentious rule 40. But there are key conditions.
The International Olympic Committee has moved to relax a controversial athlete endorsement rule ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, allowing Olympians to promote their personal commercial partners during the Games.
The problem we had with Rule 40
Previously, Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter had created a blackout period during the Olympic Games for athletes and their personal sponsors:
"No competitor, team official or other team personnel 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".
This rule was designed to protect sponsors of the Olympic Games (The Olympic Partner sponsorship scheme) who invest significant funds for guaranteed, huge global exposure.
Athletes and their representative bodies, however, argued that this prevented Olympians from generating income and accessing commercial opportunities during the most important period of their careers.
The four year Olympic cycle typically makes it very difficult for many Olympians to secure long-term commercial partnerships, and the Olympic Games window is a critical time to earn much needed funds.
The amendment of Rule 40
Pleasingly, the IOC has listened and made a key amendment to Rule 40. It now reads:
"Competitors, team officials and other team personnel who participate in the Olympic Games may allow their person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games in accordance with the principles determined by the IOC Executive Board."
What this means for brands and Australian Olympians
The Australian Olympic Committee has backed the IOC’s change. Rule 40 is now more balanced - it allows athletes to maximise an important time in their careers, while still respecting the needs of Olympic sponsors.
Athletes can continue to work with and promote their existing partners throughout the Olympics, as long as they don’t:
- Use IOC brand properties
- Escalate marketing activities during the Games
To break this down further, the key words here are existing sponsors. So a brand and an Olympic athlete will need to have evidence of a commercial relationship well and truly prior to the commencement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Marketing activities through the Olympics will need to be maintained at a frequency that is consistent throughout the entirety of the brand athlete partnership, and does not ramp up or take advantage of the Games.
The IOC is making it really clear that this is a way for Olympic athletes and their sponsors to maintain their relationships through the Games. A brand can’t expect to partner with an Olympic athlete a month out from the Games, invest huge marketing dollars in the promotion and exposure of their athlete campaign through the competition, and expect to avoid scrutiny.
While the IOC has shown flexibility with the Rule 40 change, expect the organisation and the Australian Olympic Committee to come down hard on any breaches or appearances of an ambush of existing sponsors.
Brands interested in working with Australian Olympians should be building a plan and formalising their athlete relationships right now with due consideration of the impact of Rule 40 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
There is a great opportunity here for both brands and athletes leading up to, during and after the Games, but it will need to be approached with respect to the IOCs rules and the need to protect the investment of Olympic sponsors.
Working with Olympians
Pickstar is Australia’s largest sports talent marketplace, providing direct connections to 1300+ athletes and 200+ Olympians and Paralympians past and present, for marketing and endorsement deals, events and experiences.
- Andrew Montesi, Head of Marketing, Pickstar