Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Athlete sponsorship - the legal side

Under the advertising compliance law, agency Reed Smith have released a guideline that sponsors can follow when it comes to marketing campaigns surrounding the London Games.

In 2006 the Government alongside the International Olympic Committee passed the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act, which together with the Olympic Symbol Act of 1995, offers protection to the Games and their sponsors.

The British Olympic Association has informed the 560 UK athletes that they must sign a confidential rule book, titled the 'Team Members Agreement' failure to do so could result in disqualification from the Games.

The law surrounding athlete sponsorship is very complex and failure to comply with these rules can ultimately see athletes banned from performing in the Games. During the Olympic Games a team of 'branding police' will be checking venues to ensure that manufacturers logos are removed or hidden during the Games.


A strict clean venue policy has been enforced by the International Olympic Committee, which means that sponsored athletes are not permitted to wear branded sports kits which carry logos other than that of the official kit sponsor.

For example during the 2012 Games an athlete sponsored by Nike will not be allowed to wear their branded clothing, instead they must only wear Adidas whilst in the arena.

Athletes are banned from wearing any item that carries individual sponsored logos during the Olympic trials, events and pre or post race interviews.

If an athlete is found to be in breach of the IOC's rules, they can then ban athletes from participating in the 2012 Games.


Athletes have been place under a strict code surrounding tattoos, haircuts, piercings or contact lenses. These must not issue commercial or political messages.

Any athlete who has existing tattoos that the board believe make political statements must be covered up.


Athletes have been placed under strict rules when it comes to mentioning brand names. Restrictions are in place to stop athletes being seen or mention sponsors such as Nike, Puma and Cola - as these are not official sponsors.

Under the rules of the competition, competing athletes are not permitted to endorse products during the period of the games.

However if an athlete is chosen to endorse products or services for a company, then these advertisements must be published either before or after the Games - and not during the Games.

Any competing athlete found to appear in adverts during the period of the Games may be banned from participating.

However this is one exception to this rule: well known former athletes. Those who are not competing are allowed to be featured during this time.

For example athletes like Dame Kelly Holmes.

Although no association should be made to the Games during these adverts otherwise this is an infringement of the London Olympic Association Rights.

Social Media

A social media and blogging policy has been created to help athletes understand the restrictions on blogging.

During the Games period (18 July - 15 August) athletes are not permitted to blog about sponsors or endorsed products, unless it's an official sponsor.

For example Usain Bolt will not be able to Tweet about drinking Pepsi (as Coca Cola is the main drinks sponsor)

Audio and video content from the athletes' village and any Olympic venue is banned from being uploaded to the Internet.

Athletes are banned from reporting on competition or comment on the activities of other athletes.


Athletes are banned from attending any press conferences that have not ben arranged by Olympic organisers wearing official kit or medals.


Sponsors who are not official Games sponsors are not allowed to advertise slogans such as:

"Supporting our athletes at the 2012 Games!"
"Help us make it a Gold 2012"

Companies are not allowed to use images that suggest an association with the London Olympics

As part of a promotion non-sponsored companies are not allowed to offer tickets.

A website has been set up in order for both organisers and athletes to report any ambush activities they may encounter. OlympicGamesMonitoring.com has ben set up, however it is inaccessible to the public and unauthorised users.

To protect sponsors brands and broadcasting rights, these strict rules will affect every athlete and business in the UK.

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