American athletes lead revolt against IOC ban on social media use to promote sponsors

Many American Olympic athletes are angry at the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) rule banning athletes from using social media to promote their sponsors. Some of the athletes may be risking disqualification simply by expressing their anger toward the IOC.

The rule in question – Rule #40 – can be reviewed in depth here. Essentially, the rule prohibits any unauthorized marketing messages referencing an Olympic Athlete or team during the period of the games. The IOC specifically mentions avoiding “ambush marketing” in which brands not associated with the games try to create the appearance of association with the games – in this case by using athletes involved in the games within their advertisement. A powerful example of “ambush marketing” can be seen in 2010 World Cup, where the official World Cup sponsor – Adidas – was overshadowed by Nike’s “Write the Future” campaign.

The IOC has extended this to prohibit Athletes’ mentions of their sponsors on social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). One athlete was asked to remove a picture on Facebook because it showed him in Nike shoes. American athletes argue that the IOC is going to far, and that their sponsors deserve some recognition for the money they’ve put up to get these athletes to the games.

Several athletes have taken to Twitter in protest, using the hashtags #Rule40 and #WeDemandChange to try to pressure the IOC to change this rule. One tweeter made a compelling argument in the following tweet:

Do you think this is a fair rule? Should the IOC punish these athletes for protesting the rule? Should the IOC change the rule?

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