Olympic Athletes And Their Advertisers Get A Bit More Marketing Freedom

For the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio, athletes can now be featured in non-Olympic advertising during the Olympic games -- helping them to capitalize when their marketing value is at its highest.

Previously athletes were only permitted to appear in advertising in the Olympic "blackout period" if they happen to be sports endorsers to marketers who were Olympic sponsors.

For the upcoming Rio Olympic Games that blackout period is July 27 through Aug. 24.

Under new International Olympic Committee rules inked last year, non-Olympic TV advertisers need to begin running campaigns “four months in advance of the applicable period.”  That means by the end of this month.

The old rules were to protect Olympic-certified sponsored marketers, those who pay high fees for that association, trademarks and images. These marketers would also typically buy TV commercials to run during Olympic period --- especially in the 16-day of the event broadcast on NBC.



Why the big deal? Non-Olympic advertisers can now spend a fraction of the media cost that Olympic advertisers pay on NBC Olympic programming.

This means to some they can do so-called “ambush” marketing. Non-Olympic marketers can counter-market Olympic sponsors companies in a variety of media -- taking away share of voice from their competitors.

Still, under the new rules, there are still restrictions for non-sponsors. While athletes can make appearances, there can be no Olympic imagery, just generic video in their non-Olympic TV commercials.

The new rules also force non-Olympic marketers to run campaigns “continuously” months before the event, perhaps tiring out a viewing public leading up to the Olympics.

The IOC says the original rule -- Rule 40 -- was instituted originally  “to preserve the unique nature of the Olympic Games by preventing over commercialisation.”

It seems strange the IOC is actually worried about “over-commercialization” these days, when the sport has become one of the biggest marketing tools around -- especially on TV. Perhaps someone needs to define “average” commercialization for Olympic events.

The IOC also said the rule would “allow the focus to remain on the athlete’s performance.”  Oh, that make sense -- perhaps for consumers.  

Focus is everything for athletes. During the games, I’m guessing Olympians might catch a TV commercial of themselves, and that egocentric screening could slow down training -- or worse, their in-stadium Olympic performances.

Nice try, IOC.  But no medal for you.

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