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Athletes and Representatives Upset with Response to Olympics Ambush Marketing Maneuvers

The Opening Ceremony for the 2012 Summer Olympics will take place this Friday, July 27, 2012 in London.  While athletes are making their final mental and physical preparations in their eventual quest for gold, they and their representatives are also considering how they can capture marketing and brand growth opportunities throughout the Games.  Unfortunately for those athletes and their reps, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will prohibit Olympians from marketing themselves during the course of the London events.  Unless, of course, the athletes are marketing official Olympic sponsors.

The IOC prohibition is referred to as Rule 40, and as imagined, is less than popular among almost everyone other than official Olympic sponsors.  The intention of the Rule is to attempt to alleviate sponsor concerns of ambush marketing, destroying the full value that official sponsors hope to gain from paying the large price for that status.  Those sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Visa, and McDonald’s pay millions of dollars to become a part of The Olympic Partner (TOP) Programme.

Evan Morgenstein, President and CEO of Premier Management Group in Cary, North Carolina has many issues with Rule 40 and the USOC rules, the first being that the committees’ rules are not even in sync with one another.  “The IOC requirements, through Rule 40, govern only the two weeks of the Games to forbid ambush marketing,” Morgenstein told Sports Agent Blog.  “The USOC has added the restriction to include two weeks before and the week after the Games.”

Meanwhile, athletes are being encouraged to use social media (including Twitter) to document their experiences at the 2012 Summer Olympics, but are reminded to always consider the guidelines that have been promoted by the IOC and USOC.  Morgenstein thinks that it is absolutely unacceptable that companies that invest in athletes for years are to be demonized as ambush marketers.

“Less than 2 percent of the U.S. Olympic team has direct sponsorship deals with USOC sponsors,” added Morgenstein.  “So that means 98 percent of the team is by-in-large financed by other means.  The IOC and USOC rake in billions of dollars and the athletes demand a larger piece of that pie and a full accounting of revenue.  Everyone appreciates the discourse regarding performance enhancing drugs, but the scourge of greed is far more insidious.”

Not all athletes are willing to sit idly while the IOC and USOC tell them what they can and cannot promote surrounding the Olympics.  U.S. track & field star Sanya Richards-Ross (who is married to NFL defensive back Aaron Ross) set Twitter afire on July 20 with the following Tweet:

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That Tweet has been Re-Tweeted over 500 times.  Richards-Ross wants to be paid and is willing to speak publicly about that desire while many others are afraid of the scrutiny that will result from making such comments.  Morganstein believes that the IOC and USOC’s biggest fear is the athletes coming together and publicly sharing their dissatisfaction with the current funding model through Twitter and other vehicles.  Meanwhile, Rule 40 will be enforced and the USOC will enforce its own, separate rule to the dissatisfaction of many who will be wearing red, white and blue.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

One reply on “Athletes and Representatives Upset with Response to Olympics Ambush Marketing Maneuvers”

It has been very interesting to read the responses to Sanya’s tweet, some of which are disappointing and naive – I am talking about the ones that question her patriotism and imply that she is being greedy. Why is it that the people who create the value (athletes) for the Olympics are not able to share DIRECTLY in the financial rewards? Yes, I know they can benefit given the exposure they receive – but they are entitled to both types of benefit (imo).


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