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  • Top Story Replay: U.S. Olympians, Paralympians Win Commercial Rights


    (ATR) U.S. athletes win new opportunities to market themselves during the Tokyo 2020 Games.

    New guidelines have been published by the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee based on the IOC loosening of Rule 40 in the Olympic Charter earlier this year.

    The prior IOC rule said “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”.

    The new language in the Charter does away with prohibitions.

    “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.”

    The IOC says it is up to each of the world’s 206 NOCs to draft appropriate policies to accommodate the changes.

    Under the new guidelines, U.S. Olympians and Paralympians will be able to recognize their personal sponsors during the Tokyo Games, whether by mention or receiving congratulatory messages from sponsors.

    U.S. swimmer Nathan Adrian in a Coke ad for Rio 2016 (Coca-Cola)
    Athlete personal sponsors will now be allowed to engage in generic advertising during the Games, advertising that will have to exclude trademarks such as Olympic logos or terminology like “Team USA”. Those elements of Olympic branding are reserved for the domestic sponsors of the USOPC and worldwide IOC sponsors.

    The push to give athletes greater opportunity to exploit their Olympic connection has been building for a few years. Earlier this year, a German court ruled in favor of athletes who had asked for the IOC restrictions to be tossed out. The ruling, while precedent setting, applied only to Germany.

    Given the influence of the USOPC, the new U.S. policy is likely to serve as a model for other NOCs as they prepare for 2020.

    “We worked to create a guidance that increases athlete marketing opportunities and, importantly, respects Rule 40 and affirms our commitment to providing value to our partners, and maintains funding and participation pathways for Team USA, and athletes around the world”, said USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland in a statement.

    But Olympic marketing expert Rob Prazmark says the loosening of Rule 40 could bring complications.
    21 Marketing president Rob Prazmark (ATR)

    “While I understand the value to the high profile Olympic athlete, time will tell if it will erode the value proposition to true Olympic sponsors if competitors are allowed to pick off winners to ambush true Olympic sponsors,” Prazmark tells Around the Rings.

    “It will make a company think twice about the value of an Olympic platform. There is only so much money and support any one company can give to an Olympic platform and if to protect that platform across the cost of the acquisition of marketing rights, the cost of media rights, the cost of activation and the cost of Olympic athletes becomes so cost prohibitive, that company will spend its resources elsewhere and the entire Olympic family will suffer,” Prazmark says.

    “It is unfortunate with all of the money given to various Olympic entities over the decades that someone had not come up with a procedure to funnel some of that money to the athletes to protect the right of exclusivity and eliminate that loophole,” Prazmark notes.

    “It marks the beginning of the end of what Peter Ueberroth created in 1984, granting a greater level of rights, including exclusivity, to fewer companies at a higher price,” says Prazmark, who owns the New York-based firm 21 Marketing.

    Han Xiao, chair of the USOPC Athletes Advisory Council, says he’s happy for the changes.

    “This guidance enables athlete opportunities in an entirely new way and is a sign of great progress as we continue to work closely with the USOPC,” says

    The USOPC will be hosting a series of online sessions for athletes in October to explain the changes.

    The full guidance for U.S. athletes is posted on the Team USA website. 

    Homepage photo: LIma 2019

    Reported by Ed Hula. For general comments or questions, click here.
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