Rule 40 is a law instituted by the International Olympic Committee which prohibits the communication between non-official brands and athletes. If you’re a razor company like Shick (non-official brand) who has an endorsement deal with an athlete like Sidney Crosby, you are forbidden from engaging with Crosby during the blackout period. From February 1st to February 28th, unless your company is an official sponsor like Coca Cola, McDonalds, Nike, Visa, P & G, etc, you’ll be forced to sit in the dark and get creative in order to engross yourself in the Olympic conversation.
For high profile athletes like Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn this hardly makes a difference. It is the lesser known athletes who rely on non-official companies to sponsor them to off-set costs for training that take the hit. Furthermore, for marketers, the risks of signing an athlete to an endorsement agreement and launching an entire campaign around that athlete by October 1, with no assurance that the athlete will even make the team, will likely prove too great a risk. Athletes who have not crossed over into the general cultural consciousness and whose notoriety is dependent on their Olympic performance will likely be once again left out in the cold.
What’s cheeky about Rule 40 is that it claims its intent is to “preserve the unique nature of the Olympic games by preventing over-commercialization.” The games are already over-commercialized. What it really does is protect Olympic sponsors and enables them to have exclusive marketing rights during the games. Small businesses (unofficial sponsors) have to get creative and can’t even use official hashtags, or mention the words Gold; Silver; Bronze; Medal; Effort; Performance; Challenge; Summer; Games; Sponsors; Victory; Olympia; Olympic; Olympics; Olympic Games; Olympiad; Olympiads and the Olympic motto “Citius – Altius – Fortius.”
As a small business, we are fortunate to have many athletes who will wear our ice skating blades in the upcoming Olympic Games. Under this structure, we can’t tweet from one of our accounts a simple message of support like “Go Team USA!” as this would constitute a violation. Athletes can be disqualified and stripped of medals if they violate this rule (enforced by the Olympic committees of each respective nation).
My approach for the company during the Olympics will be getting creative within the moment like Oreo did during the 2013 Superbowl power outage. "Power out?" Oreo posted to Twitter. "No problem. You can still dunk in the dark." The tweet was retweeted 10,000 times within one hour.
If a skater were to once again shred an air guitar in the kiss and cry like Misha Ge did in 2014, I might be tempted to have our art department photo shop Jimi Hendrix into a generic kiss and cry branded booth and Tweet “Even Jimi knew."