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January 19th, 2016
Planning to Use Olympic Participants in Your Advertising?
There's important news for marketers and agencies considering the Olympic Games in Rio: the deadline for non-sponsors to request an IOC Rule 40 "waiver" is January 27, 2016. Here's a review of Rule 40 and what you need to know to keep your Olympic-themed campaigns on track.
What is Rule 40?
IOC Rule 40 prohibits athletes and other Olympic participants from endorsing non-official Olympic sponsors during the Olympic Games blackout period. In other words, non-sponsors are barred from using Olympic participants' names, pictures and sports performances in their campaigns during this period, which is often the most valuable time for the use of Olympic participants in advertising. The blackout period for the Rio Olympics is July 27, 2016 through August 24, 2016.
In the past, the IOC permitted no exceptions to this rule. But that has changed. This year the IOC and certain national Olympic committees (including the United States Olympic Committee (USOC)) have agreed to grant waivers to athletes and non-sponsors. According to the USOC, the waiver process will "enable the continuation of in-market generic advertising featuring Rio Games participants during the Games period."
How to get a waiver.
If you're a non-sponsor or athlete and you want to apply for a waiver, you'll need to apply by January 27, 2016. Applications must contain the following information:
- a brief overview of the campaign
- key messaging from the campaign
- examples of the advertising tactics to be used (e.g., commercials, billboards, social media)
- the start and end date for the campaign, and
- a media schedule showing that the campaign will launch by March 27, 2016 and run continuously through the Games period.
Your materials will have to persuade the USOC that your campaign is "generic." The USOC definition of "generic advertising" says there can be "no direct or indirect association with Rio Games, Olympic/Paralympic IP or terms generally associated with the Olympic/Paralympic Games." This broad definition goes beyond the USOC's registered trademarks and can conceivably capture terms such as gold, silver, Rio, and Brazil - or potentially even athletic imagery, such as showing athletes swimming in a pool or walking across a balance beam in a competitive environment.
USOC officials on a conference call we listened to also made clear that the advertising must be rolled out on a consistent schedule beginning March 27, 2016 - so that the non-sponsor "does not take advantage" of the Games period.
The USOC will only grant waivers and approve campaigns being activated in the United States. For international campaigns, the marketer must go to the IOC for approval and then to the specific countries where the campaign will be activated.
In sum, if you are a non-sponsor who intends to use Olympic participants in advertising during the Olympic Games blackout period, you must submit the information and materials set forth above by January 27, 2016. Without a proper waiver, you will have to suspend the campaign by July 27, 2016. If you run a campaign without a waiver, any Olympic participant you feature could be penalized, leading not only to financial costs, but to bad PR as well.
For assistance with Rule 40 waivers or other questions regarding Olympic-related advertising, please contact Christopher Chase at (212) 826 5568 or firstname.lastname@example.org or any other member of the Frankfurt Kurnit Sports or Advertising Groups.
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