Social Media, Rule 40, Ambush Marketing, and the Olympics

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

While most Americans enjoy the Olympics with social media freedom – blogging, tweeting, and Facebooking to their heart’s content, many Olympic athletes are complaining about unprecedented social media restrictions.  The International Olympic Committee (IOC) introduced new guidelines for blogging and social media, now infamously referred to as Rule 40, to protect sponsorship dollars and prevent ambush marketing.

In Nike’s new “Find Your Greatness” campaign, Nike has successfully “ambushed” Olympic advertising by finding loopholes in the IOC’s policies.  In this commercial, Nike never uses the terms Olympics, Medal or Gold, and although it shows multiple images of London it’s never London, England, but rather numerous other cities named London across the globe.  Their sneaky ambush seems to have worked, as 37% of US consumers identified Nike as an Olympic sponsor, compared to 24% for real sponsor Adidas.

Olympic athletes are claiming that restrictions on advertising are ultimately affecting their performance by obstructing sponsor relationships, as they can’t appear in advertising during and shortly before the games, nor can they promote sponsors in their tweets during the games.  Athletes who are fortunate enough to be sponsored by official sponsors such as Procter & Gamble, Adidas, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola can promote them freely through social media.

To follow your favorite olympic athletes and official Olympic social media profiles, check out’s Olympic Athlete Hub.

For more information check out our related blog posts about Social Media marketing using the category breakdown in the right sidebar.

Article written by James Love
Last Updated: August 1, 2012

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