12 Step Brand Guide To Post About The Olympics And Not Get Sued


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It Is Illegal To Post About The Olympics If You Aren’t A Sponsor

Every four years, the biggest and most talked about event of the summer around the world unfolds – the Olympic Games.   People all over the world watch as the best athletes compete and root for their country to win. And they post, tweet snap and hashtag across their social media world.    

The Olympic Games are the perfect platform for brands to connect to a global audience, but unless the brand is one of the official sponsors of the games, there is very little you can post without official approval via a letter from International Olympic Committee (IOC)… and it won’t be a thank you for spreading the word.  In this blog Hollywood Branded shares 12 steps for brands to take to be able to legally share their love and support of the Olympic games to their fan base.


The Crackdown

The IOC and U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) have cracked down on non-sponsor companies who are looking to capitalize on the global reach of the games with a set of restrictions for social media during the event. If you think they’re joking, athletic apparel company Oiselle received a letter from the USOC to remove content referring to the Olympics. The company sponsors 15 athletes during Olympic trials, but is not an official sponsor of the games.

And it’s hard for brands – as well as their athletes – to forget and stop the support for the two week time period the years of partnership the two have had together as the athlete rose to being a potential Olympics medal winner.

But there is a reason for the crackdown.  Brands who are Official Sponsors pay millions and millions of dollars for those rights.  And they get a little steamed when their competition swoops in on what they consider 'hands off' content that they've paid more than a pretty penny for.

Playing It Safe

So what CAN a brand do?  Avoid the following, and toe the line of safety to avoid being sued.  Here’s a sample of the Olympic Committee’s many prohibitions against business activity during the big games in southern hemisphere:

1. Businesses can't use any of the Olympics' trademarked words or phrases.  These terms include:

  • Olympic
  • Olympian
  • Team USA
  • Future Olympian
  • Gateway to gold
  • Go for the gold
  • Let the games begin
  • Paralympic
  • Pan Am Games
  • Olympiad
  • Paralympiad
  • Pan-American
2. You can't use terms that reference the location of the Olympics, such as:
  • Road to Rio
  • Road to Pyeongchang
  • Road to Tokyo
  • Rio 2016
  • Pyeongchang 2018
  • Tokyo 2020

3. You must not use words that incorporate the word "Olympic," such as Mathlympics, Aqualympics, Chicagolympics, Radiolympics, etc.
4. You can't use hashtags that include Olympics trademarks such as #TeamUSA or #Rio2016.

5. You cannot use any official Olympics logos.

6. You cannot post any photos taken at the Olympics. (While not mentioned on the USOC's brand guidelines site, this rule is mentioned in a letter written by USOC chief marketing officer Lisa Baird and obtained by ESPN.) 

7. You can't feature Olympic athletes in your social posts.

8. You can't even wish Olympic athletes luck.

9. Don't post any Olympics results.

10. You can't share anything from official Olympics social media accounts. Even retweets are prohibited.

11. No creating your own version of Olympic symbols, "whether made from your own logo, triangles, hexagons, soda bottle tops, onion rings, car tires, drink coasters, basketballs, etc."

12. "Do not host an Olympic- or Paralympic-themed contest or team-building event for employees."

What Can A Brand Post About Then?!? Flubs!

After reading that, a brand manager needs to take a big gulp of air and start thinking very creatively.  Organizers themselves had to jump over numerous hurdles such as economic and political strife, high crime, and numerous health concerns just to get the games going, and now brands and marketers have to make similar strides in their social strategies.

If you want to post about [redacted] 2016, you need to be more creative. While the games and logos are trademarked and legally protected, moments and experiences are not. Take for example Oreo’s quick-witted tweet during the Super Bowl blackout in 2013.


So if you are tweeting for your brand, pay close attention to the games for any slips and flubs to jump on before the IOC trademarks on those.

Post About Themed Travel Material

Also, look for spectacles outside the realm of sports during this event. For example, influencers are growing in popularity for marketers and brands, reach out to influencers who shine a light on your brand that just so happens around the games. For example, contact food bloggers to create local Brazilian cuisine, beauty bloggers for tips to survive humidity, and fitness bloggers on how to get to athletic shape.

Taking The Gold

The Olympics present a challenge with numerous restrictions, but a truly excellent marketer or creative agency will take the gold by clearing these restraints and convey your brands’ message during this eye-catching event.

Are you interested in learning more on how your brand can work with social media influencers?   Download our infographic that provides case studies, rates and strategies for success when creating a social media influencer program.

How To Connect Your Brand With Social Influencers