Rule 40: What does it mean, and why is it required?

The Olympic Games represent the triumph of the human spirit, the pursuit of excellence, and are a symbol for chasing dreams.

But they are also about money.

10 000 athletes will participate in the Tokyo Olympic Games, and some of those 10 000 will have personal sponsors. These sponsors invest time and money into athletes en route to the Games, in the hope that they can utilise the athletes likeness in various marketing campaigns during the Games (or maybe just to show off at the next golf day!).

What better platform for a sponsor than that of the Olympic Games?

Let’s take an example: A local sponsor (let’s call them Peter ‘s Butchery) decides they want to sponsor an athlete in the lead up to Tokyo hoping they can use the athlete’s picture during the Games as a great marketing strategy, or better yet, get the athlete to promote them while at Tokyo.  Local sponsor on a global platform – every sponsor’s dream! 

But sorry Peter‘s Butchery – you should have read RULE 40.

Rule 40, a bye-law of the Olympic Charter, states that “Except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his or her person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games”. The rule was designed to prevent ambush marketing by non-Olympic partners, and the promotional blackout comes into effect 9 days prior to the Opening Ceremony, ending 3 days after the Closing Ceremony. 

What does that mean for Peter’s Butchery? Well, not being an Olympic partner, neither Peter’s Butchery nor the athlete they sponsor can mention each other while Tokyo is on the go.

Ultimately this means sponsors and athletes lose out on possible revenue generating activities during the Games.

Of course, as is usual when money is involved, there has been increasing backlash against this rule from athletes and sponsors. Rules are meant to be broken (or at least amended).

So, in June 2019, the IOC updated Rule 40 and developed a set of Key Principle around the rule, setting out how the athletes competing at the Olympics can begin to engage in and benefit from commercial activities during Olympic Games if the marketing meets certain criteria. What this means, is that athletes can now at least say thank you to sponsors in a very controlled, set manner – one step forward in the right direction for the IOC, athletes and their sponsors.

Therefore, in closing, Thank You Peter’s Butchery for always being there for our athletes!

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