Athletes competing in this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will already have flown out to Brazil in to put the final tweaks on their preparations ahead of the opening ceremony this Friday, August 5.
However, these athletes have been told that they must cut all ties with all sponsors that are not recognised by the Games. As well as this, participants must also adhere to a strict set of rules regarding social media activity.
These guidelines are known as Rule 40 and they are an official bylaw of the Olympic Charter. The rule is in place to protect the intellectual property of the official sponsors of the Olympic Games. These sponsors include McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Visa, Panasonic, Omega and Samsung. The rule was brought in as these sponsors have paid significant amounts of money to have their brands associated with the event.
The rule states that only sponsors who have been approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) can use certain words and phrases that have been classified as “Olympic-related terms”.
These terms are:
• Rio/Rio de Janeiro
• Olympic Games
With the rule coming into effect on July 27, many athletes who will be involved in this year’s spectacle tweeted their final messages of thanks to their sponsors the day before:
Before the enforced Blackout period begins just want to thank @NikeUK @AnglianHome @trufflesbakers for the help on my Olympic journey!
— Charlie Grice (@CharlieGrice1) July 26, 2016
— Jade Lally (@JadeLallyT69) July 27, 2016
— Kimberly Williams, OLY (@kimmi_williams) July 26, 2016
Is the #Rule40 just for the Olympics tomorrow or Paralympics too?!? Help!! PS we have sponsors too 😂😂😂
— Dan Greaves (@DiscusDan) July 26, 2016
Many of these athletes even used the hashtag #Rule40 to explain the blackout and perhaps tweet with a little irony. French athlete Justine Fedronic even dubbed July 26th as ‘Rule 40 Eve’.
— Justine Fedronic (@JFedronic) July 27, 2016
The blackout period will be in effect from July 27 through August 24, with the Games themselves taking place between August 5 and 21.
Not everyone is in agreement with Rule 40, and those who are not competing have not been shy on giving their opinions on the matter. Michael Johnson, a four-time Olympic Gold medallist and world record holder in the 400m, brands the rule as “ridiculous”.
IOC Rule 40 sanctions athletes for personal sponsors using words like 'effort' in an ad or post. Ridiculous! https://t.co/vrIfzwKLcA
— Michael Johnson (@MJGold) July 28, 2016
The announcement of the blackout period came at a time where the image of the 2016 Olympics is under scrutiny. The turmoil and fall out over the Russian drugs scandal is still raw, with many sports clearing Russian athletes to compete despite proof of mass doping in the last decade.
Former British heptathlete and Bronze medallist at Athens 2004, Kelly Sotherton voiced her opinion on Rule 40 and the ongoing saga of Russian doping.
— Kelly (@KellySotherton) July 26, 2016
Even though Rule 40 has been relaxed since the London Games of 2012, non-official sponsors have been warned about their conduct in the next few weeks and have even been told that they must not pass on good luck messages to athletes competing in Rio. Furthermore, they are banned from retweeting the posts of their athletes relating to the competition or face possible sanctions, such as having a medal stripped in the most extreme cases.
Many businesses who have a social media presence must be careful about the way they handle themselves on social media platforms and often tell employees of taboo subjects. Therefore, it is important that they adhere to these rules and make sure that they are aware of laws such as Rule 40.