Olympians Take Sponsorship Protest Social to Demand Change

Last year I praised the International Olympic Committee for their forward thinking policy around social media at this year’s London games. The straightforward policy sets out rules that I think are fair while still being restrictive enough to give the IOC control over the brand everyone in the world talks about for a few weeks every four years. And considering how tightly they control the image in other settings, the policy becomes even more understandable.

But there is another rule Olympic athletes must adhere to, Rule 40, that’s become a hot topic in the Olympic conversation on and offline. Simply put, Rule 40 limits Olympic athletes from mentioning their sponsors unless they are Top IOC partners (aka advertisers).

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Olympic Leaders Issue Social Media Policy for 2012 Games

As the world’s elite athletes begin preparing for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the International Olympic Committee has issued a policy encouraging participants to use social networks during the games.

Coming in at four pages, the guidelines are actually quite easy to grasp considering the complexities behind the Olympic games, logos and trademarks. It’s so smart for the IOC to get in front of what is sure to be an onslaught of Tweets, status updates and now +1s about any and everything to do with the Games. In short, athletes are asked to share their experiences like an online diary, while media is asked to use SM for “bona fide reporting purposes.” Things are more restrictive in the Olympic villages where the athletes live, and of course the five rings logo is off-limits.

It will be interesting to see who enforces these rules and who the rulebreakers will be (because we know someone will break the rules). And the IOC’s guidance to “be dignified and in good taste” is a touchy-feely no-brainer that is right in line with the Olympic spirit.