Olympian Sponsorship all about Communication and Collaboration

The Olympic Federation of Ireland has been closely monitoring the changes in emphasis on rules permitting a greater flexibility fo athletes to credit personal sponsors, as we reported here on Sport for Business yesterday.

The US Olympic and Paralympic national body have issued guidelines which do allow a little more freedom while at the same time protecting the rights of major global and national Olympic sponsors.

“We have been closely looking at the best way forward so that everyone is treated fairly and will bring forward guidelines after discussion with the Athletes Commission based on what has been put forward at international level,” Olympic Federation CEO Peter Sherrard told us yesterday.

“It is a balancing act which comes into focus around the games and we want to make sure that everyone is treated fairly.”

“The ruling in Germany over the summer was only local but there has been a discussion at IOC and national level over the last few years looking to get to a point where this is not a distraction for athletes.”

“Having clear guidelines and communicating them to the athletes, their agents and the agencies is the key to getting this right well in advance and that is what we will be doing.”

The subtle changes to the IOC’s rules focus on congratulatory messaging.

Rule 40 Extract

Congratulatory advertising

For these purposes, congratulatory advertising means both:
supporting messages encouraging, commiserating or otherwise supporting
an athlete or a national Olympic team in connection with their participation at
the Olympic Games, and
congratulatory messages praising the athlete or a national Olympic team for
their achievement at the Olympic Games.
Congratulatory advertising is not regarded as being Generic Advertising,
because of the intrinsic connection with the Olympic Games. Therefore, during the
Games Period, only Olympic Partners (IOC, TOCOG, NOC sponsors) can
undertake congratulatory advertising.
Non-Olympic Partners can undertake Congratulatory Advertising in support of their
contracted athletes before and after the Games Period (July 14 2020 – August 10 2020),
but without using any Olympic Properties.

Online messages by Participants

Participants may provide simple messages of thanks on their personal websites
and/or personal social media accounts to Olympic Partners and/or their personal Non-
Olympic Partners, including during the Games Period, but their posts must:

not include any statement or imply that a product or service enhanced the
Participant’s performance,

not include a personal endorsement of the relevant product or service (as
distinct from thanking the sponsor for their support), and

respect the policies of the IOC and relevant NOCs in relating to activities
incompatible with the values of the Olympic movement or a particular NOC, for
example: prohibitions on sponsorships in connection with tobacco, prohibited
drugs and other categories (e.g. alcohol, gambling and pornographic or
immoral businesses), or in respect of limits on using images or videos of the
athlete in his or her national Olympic team kit or any Olympic medal.

Thank you messages to Non-Olympic Partners are limited to one thank you
message per personal Non-Olympic Partner, posted via the Participant’s social
media accounts. A single identical message, posted at the same time on a number of
social media platforms, would count as one message for these purposes. Such posts
(including any accompanying image or video) must not suggest a commercial
connection between the IOC, the Olympic Games, NOC or a national Olympic team
and a Non-Olympic Partner.

Participants may repost or share content from the IOC’s, the Tokyo 2020 OCOG’s,
their national Olympic team’s or their NOC’s social media accounts. However,
such reposts or sharing must not include messages of thanks, or otherwise refer, to
Non-Olympic Partners.

We contacted a number of our members in the representation space yesterday and all of them welcomed the opportunity to say thanks to the personal sponsors who had helped athletes get to where that are going.

“Many athletes are thankful to the partners they have onboard and wish to acknowledge their support during the moment at which the spotlight is brightest on them,”  said Sinéad Galvin of Galvin Sports Management.

“There is  of course a balancing between the commercial rights of the Olympic sponsors and that of the athletes’ individual sponsor but it is one which I feel with collaboration is achievable.”

“I have no doubt that the OFI as an athlete centred organisation alongside the Athlete Commission will give this due consideration and make the right decision. And I would hope Paralympics Ireland would follow suit.”

“We welcome the flexibility with regards to the interpretation of rule 40 and hope that Ireland follows the US in its decision,” added Declan Bourke of Sport Endorse.
“This will allow individual athletes to visibly strengthen relationships with personal sponsors many of which support the athletes over many years and not just in Olympic and Paralympic years.”
“It is important though that such recognition is done in a balanced way that illustrates the competitive yet sporting spirit that the games embody – in a clean and fair manner.”
“We believe this could be good for major sponsors as well as it also presents an opportunity for them to deepen their support of the games by activating their sponsorship all the way down to the individual level.”
“Elite athletes in Ireland and many other countries are often under supported financially so if Ireland follow suit it should lead to better support for our Olympians and Paralympians, enhanced sponsorship opportunities for Irish brands, and hopefully more podium finishes for all.”

Niall Woods of Navy Blue and Dave McHugh of Line Up SME expressed similar optimism that atheletes would have a greater opportunity to activate their own commercial partnerships.

The rules will remain tight on advertising.  Material will need to be approved and will also need to part of what is seen as a sustained level of support rather than just a spotlight grabbing moment of ‘ambush marketing’.

It’s a good time to be having the debate rather than too close to the games when tension is highest.

We will follow up as the discussions between the Olympic Federation and the Athletes Commission continue to move towards a mutually acceptable conclusion.

Image Credit: Inpho.ie

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