Rule 40 of the Olympic

rule 40

In the past Olympics, under the IOC’s Rule 40, only official sponsors like McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble and Visa had a lock on advertising during the games. Athletes were barred from tweeting about non-official sponsors, and non-sponsors were not allowed to feature Olympic athletes that they had sponsorship deals with in ads.


In February 2015, the IOC announced changes to the rule. Those changes allow athletes to appear in generic advertising that does not explicitly mention the games or use any Olympic intellectual property (the Olympic rings, and terms such as “Olympics” “2016” “Rio,” “games” and “gold” are off limits). Athletes also are now allowed to tweet about non-official sponsors provided they don’t use such Olympic IP. However, to capitalized on these new rules, athletes and non-sponsor brands need to submit waivers to the respective athlete’s national Olympic’s committee and IOC by January 27, 2016, including plans for advertising and social media campaigns. Next, the ads must have been in-market by March 27.

One brand that really caught our attention this year with quite a brilliant campaign is Under Armour. They have used this new and more relaxed Rule 40 to their advantage for the upcoming Rio Olympic. They are sponsoring 250 athletes to this game, but they are not the official sponsor of Olympic. Under Armour has submitted their advertising plans to both USOC and IOC and was approved. They launched their “Rule Yourself” campaign with these 2 emotional ads, involving Michael Phelps and US Women’s gymnastic team

These are their ads:


Both ads comply with Rule 40: They launched before the March deadline, and neither contains any Olympics IP.

To consider that athletes and brands need to submit application on January, where most people do not know whether they are qualified or not, is still absurd, in our opinion. Sports agency with athletes qualified into Olympic need to be more creative in recognizing them during the game.

Need to think of a way when posting in social medias that will not include Olympic IP. New hashtag might be considered. Other alternative is to let other athletes who are not competing in Olympic to post about it in their social media channels, to recognized the athletes who are competing in the Olympic

Marketing and branding is all about being creative, after all

This will be the first Olympic to implement the changes on the Rule 40. Next question would be,  will the value of official partnerships going down, due to the exclusivity have been taken away? This is something we will see post Olympic. See the full list of Olympic sponsors here

Either the brands are official sponsor or not, the marketing campaign should be powerful, either way. This brings us to an example of a misleading and non-compliant ads by Telstra. Australia Olympic Committee took this case to court