It has come as somewhat of a shock to many that the IOC (the International Olympic Committee) and the USOC (the United States Olympic Committee) have warned both athletes and non-sponsoring businesses against using Olympic trademarks on social media and in their content marketing campaigns.
Not surprisingly, many people feel as if they have taken part in the Olympics since the whole world watches the games. However, the USOC and lOC are now attempting to increase the value of their sponsorships.
From now on, these two organizations will challenge any commercial entity that uses Olympic intellectual property without having expressed official permission. From their standpoint, by making it harder to secure use of these trademarks, phrases, and images, the Olympic brand will be strengthened.
In fact, according to ESPN, even websites who are reporting on the Olympic activities are feeling the effects of the USOC crackdown.
Some might say that the Olympic has become a forbidden topic. According to Adweek words and phrases such as Rio 2016, Road to Rio, Olympic, Olympian, Paralympic are all off limits unless you have secured the proper licensing. This also includes words that are melded together such as Grade school-Olympics . These words are not to be used in hashtags, photos, or even memes.
Let’s say a non-sponsoring consumer brand for example, whose social media accounts are handled by someone who wants to share the results of a given competition. This person decides to Tweet out a message under the brand’s Twitter handle.
From the Official Guidelines:
“Commercial entities whose primary purpose is the sale of goods or services unrelated to disseminating the news cannot use USOC trademarks under the pretext of editorial content. For example, a soft drink company might post “current news” on its website; however, it is not a media company and its primary business is selling soft drinks. Therefore, it may not use USOC trademarks or report on the Games without permission from the USOC.”
As you can imagine, if instituted, these new rules would have a phenomenal impact on social media and content marketing today. Let’s face it; there are not many bloggers who would be willing to pay licensing fees just to use a certain Olympic phrase. That means that this very post would be considered in violation of the new rules.
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Can The IOC Do This?
This leaves us with two major questions:
1. Can these rules actually be enforced?
2. Does the IOC really have the ability to enforce rules and regulations of this magnitude?
Though it may be easy to shrug this idea off as just a passing proposal, we must keep in mind that the IOC does have a substantial amount of power. They have the ability to decide where the games will be held, and they prefer countries that strictly enforce Olympic trademark laws.
Moreover, according to attorney Gregory Herrman of Herrman & Herrman, “considering that there are certain countries that hack into and destroy websites that do not follow regulations, enforcement should not be very difficult. Even in the U.S., the USOC can sue any entity who attempts to use its trademarks and symbols for commercial gain.”
These rules and regulations have been around for quite some time. However, we have yet to see them enforced when it comes to social media and content marketing. As of right now, the savvy business owner would be very wise to make sure that their content remained within the proper parameters.
It is best to adhere to copyright laws. This also means that if they want to ensure that they are within their rights, it may be in their best interest to secure legal counsel who specializes in both social media and the sports arena.
There are certain loopholes that you may be able to slide, though. For example, words and phrases such as revived Grecian Games and Olympiad are not on any of the ICC’s or the USOC’s proscribed lists–though you should be very carefully when making your final decision.
There are several social media and content marketing experts who initially encouraged the idea of using the Olympic Games in online strategies. However, they are now starting to backtrack and advice against this. Some even go so far as to advise that people stay away from Olympic topics entirely.
Though these regulations are strict, there are certain outlets which are free to use the phrases and trademarks. These are the mainstream news channels.
Sure, there will be several websites who suddenly decide to add a “Sports” section to their website or blog. Hopefully, they will be kind of enough to let the rest of us know how it all turns out in the end. After they pay their fines, of course.