Unofficial 2016 Olympic Sponsors Find Ways To Capitalize On Rule 40

Adidas, Auto Trader, Gatorade, and Under Armour, among others, are unofficial sponsors of the 2016 Rio Olympics. All have found ways to capitalize on ads connected to this summer's games, but some confusion has led to a bit of controversy. 

More than one-third of survey participants in a global study by Toluna incorrectly identified Adidas as a sponsor of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

"Brands that sponsor big name athletes like Michael Phelps may be able to gain more exposure for less cost than by becoming an official Olympics sponsor," said Mark Simon, managing director of North America at Toluna. "Ultimately, the IOC will need to consider what brings them more value--allowing non-sponsors to generate broader exposure for the games through their athlete partnerships, or maintaining control over the athletes’ marketing influence by restricting use of the Olympics brand."



Brooks Running Gear, the brand behind, opposes the loosened restrictions of ads from non-sponsor brands as it takes money from the pockets of athletes.

Only half of American track and field athletes ranked in the top 10 in their event earn more than $15,000 per year from their sport, according to

Adidas has posted about 20 videos under the campaign Speed Takes. Each video running on YouTube features an Olympic athlete highlighting attributes like transformation, progress or creativity.

The content does not try to sell the brand or mention the Rio games, but the ads do focus on competition and being an athlete.  

Auto Trader is running a TV commercial that doesn't mention the Olympics or Rio, but Steven Wastie, CMO at Origami Logic, says it follows one main ad-industry trend, connecting with consumers through a branding style and keeping names and affiliations out of the content.

Origami published stats Friday that show Adidas total engagement rates at 1,927,547 across social sites like Facebook and YouTube for the last few months through July 30. The company broke down likes and favorites to 1,915,727; comments to 4,902; and shares and retweets to 6,977.

Under Armour's total engagement rates came in at 3,870,814 across social sites like Facebook and YouTube for the last few months through July 30. Origami broke down likes and favorites to 1,861,748; comments to 11,765; and shares and retweets to 62,297.

Changes to the International Olympic Committee's (IOC's) Rule 40 opened the door for more brands to benefit from their ties to the Rio 2016 games — even if they aren't official Olympic sponsors.

The rules, however, come with restrictions.

U.S. athletes and non-sponsor brands participating had to submit waivers to the USOC by Jan. 27, 2016, including plans for advertising and social media campaigns, and ads had to start running by late March.

The changes now allow athletes to appear in generic advertising that does not explicitly mention the games or use any Olympic intellectual property such as the iconic rings. Athletes also are now allowed to tweet about nonofficial sponsors provided they don't use specific Olympic intellectual property.

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