Olympians could be in line for a major boost from personal sponsorship after a change in the ways they might be able to promote individual sponsors throughout the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.
The flip side is that major sponsors of the Games, who pay billions for the rights and exclusive privileges that go with that could see their impact somewhat diluted.
A court ruling in Germany over the summer brought the International Olympic Committee under the realm of normal competition law and individual countries will now have the right to reinterpret Rule 40 which was put in place to protect the interest of major sponsors by restricting the use of athletes and their Olympic messaging throughout a ‘closed period before and during the Olympics.
The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee was the first major national organisation to do this yesterday allowing individual athletes to appear in advertising for personal sponsors, to receive congratulatory and good luck messages and to send thank you messages across social and mainstream media to their sponsors.
They will not be allowed to use Team USA or Olympic branding or imagery but their right to use their own likeness will no longer be hindered by the rule.
The news only broke last night so we have not yet reached out to the Olympic Federation of Ireland but we will be doing so today and will carry their initial reaction on Sport for Business tomorrow.
What does it mean for athletes?
We should not overestimate that there will be a mad scramble to sign up athletes but it does allow for the possibility that tactical campaigns from local brands that would never otherwise have considered an involvement at the Olympic Games could now become a reality.
For stars who travel with the real possibility of a medal, they have an obvious increased value now should the OFI choose to follow the path of the USA.
That itself is not guaranteed because other partnerships with team sponsors will need to be factored in but if there was a legal challenge based on individual rights then things could get a bit salty.
All that we can say with some degree of certainty after yesterday’s decision in the US is that the endorsement of an athlete like Kelly Harrington, Sunita Puspure, Natalya Coyle or Rhys McClenaghan has just become that much more attractive.
Image Credit: Inpho.ie