Rules For Rio Marketing

That big sporting event in Rio (that we can’t mention the name of!) starts this Friday. Time for us marketers to watch what we say in our Rio marketing. The controversial “Rule 40” has hung over that big sporting event like a dark cloud for some time now. It hurts athletes, businesses and taxpayers alike under the thinly veiled guise “to preserve the unique nature of [that big sporting event] by preventing over-commercialisation”.

The reality, the Games organiser is trying to maintain exclusivity for billion dollar companies that pay them directly. This prevents companies who have sponsored and invested in particular athletes for a long time from profiting from the return. It also allows the sponsors of the Games to participate in ‘ambush Rio marketing’, associating with a rival’s sponsor to profit off of the publicity. Ironically this is exactly what the organiser of the Games claims to be preventing.

More than sponsors, this also hurts all local businesses that aren’t allowed to profit from the Games that are happening right on their doorstep. This does huge damage to the local economy on top of the constructions of new stadiums and accommodation, making the chance of a city actually profiting from the Games far less likely.

The system is clearly flawed!

The Games organiser has ‘relaxed’ “Rule 40”, to try and ease some of the tension. Whether this is a token effort to placate host nations or a genuine attempt to give them what they paid for is yet to be seen. Don’t run your big sporting event campaign just yet though. The ‘relaxed’ rule is still pretty rigid. We’ve taken the highlights for you:

“Except as permitted by the [that big sporting event] Executive Board, no competitor, official or other team personnel who participates in the [that big sporting event] may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the [that big sporting event].”

“This applies to all uses of an athlete’s image, name or performance in any type of advertising (including print, online and digital… broadcast, outdoor, as well as any personal appearances).”

There are 2 loopholes in “Rule 40”, “Deemed Consent” and a “Rule 40 Waiver”.

“Deemed Consent”: This says that material that has been running before 27th March 2016, running continuously from then until the Games. The Games committee must be notified by 27th January 2016. Such an advert must not create an association with the national team or the Games.

To truly get the scope of “Deemed Consent” in your Rio marketing (if you’re afraid you might need it), you need to look at the provided examples. Here’s a quick summary of what is not covered:
• Businesses cannot Tweet their association with an athlete or vice versa during the “Game Period”.
• They cannot Retweet anything relating to the Games or Retweet official bodies (national team).
• Referencing or implying medals have or will be won this year at the Games is not allowed by businesses.
• Businesses cannot use the name of the Games in reference to the athlete’s occupation. Nor can they include the Games’ logo or team logo.

Here is what business are allowed with “Deemed Consent”:
• They can reference wins in previous years, so long as other sporting events are included, it’s not prominent and the ad fits the running criteria for “Deemed Consent”.
• This also applies to showing branded clothing and otherwise appearing in ads.

Who they’ll accept is a little more vague.

An example is given from Virgin’s campaign with Usain Bolt, this is apparently ok so long as the Jamaican team’s committee agree and it has met the time restrictions. However a Santander ad with Jessica Ennis is not, despite not including any reference to the Games. This is justified by saying “deemed consent does not apply non-specialist sports retail shops”. So perhaps they couldn’t find an example of one, but providing such ambiguous descriptions in their own guidelines is not a good sign.

“Rule 40 Waiver”: If “Deemed Consent” isn’t given applicable, a waiver can be applied for.

We are told a waiver will not be granted during the “Game Period” for:

1. Adverts in paid-for advertising space (including print, online and digital… tv and billboard space).
2. PR or press releases.
3. Direct Mail (on and offline).
4. In-store promotions (some exceptions allowed).
5. Online features published, this also applies to pieces written prior to the Games with the intent of being written during the Games.
6. Social Media, this applies to both athletes and sponsors, neither are allowed to promote the other in any way shape or form (rather contradictory to the name if you ask me).

3 examples are given of when a waiver may be granted are provided:

1. First is the exact same description as “Deemed Consent” which seems a bit odd as this is only if that is failed.
2. Second is in regards to advertising for “non-commercial” adverts (charities).
3. Third is for advertising another sporting event taking place shortly after the Games involving the featured athlete.

The Games are a minefield of restrictions for marketers, I recommend steering clear for the time being. Even after hours of scouring the official guidelines, I can’t say for certain what they will and won’t allow. Whether the ambiguity is deliberate or just an oversight I can’t say, but letting it be published is a clear sign that any ‘relaxation’ of the rule is merely a PR line and they fully intend to forcibly maintain their exclusive rights.

Read the “Rule 40” guidelines