What Your Company Can and Can’t Say About the 2016 Rio Olympics

by Kaitlan Whitteberry on August 5, 2016

From facility safety issues to warnings administered about flooding and water quality to major concerns about the rampant crime throughout the city, this year’s Olympic games aren’t without controversy. Adding another ding to the list is the release of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s (USOC) new regulations on businesses using the Olympics’ intellectual property. Businesses have been completely banned from referencing the event on social media in almost any way. What does this mean for you? Treading with caution when posting anything about the games on social media is a good place to start. Just what can you say and what exactly could get you into trouble? We’re breaking down the rules. 

The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will begin in just a few short days, however your company is forbidden from tweeting about it. In an effort to maintain the integrity of the Olympic brand, athletes and intellectual property, modifications have been made to the Rule 40. Olympics_Social_Posting_2016.jpgThis includes a “special trademark protection” law which is aiming to eliminate any unofficial mention of the games by any organization that have not been granted prior permission to do so. 

Of course, news media, official sponsors (like Coca-Cola and Visa) and individuals are exempt from the rules, businesses are eliminated from participating in the Olympic conversation online.

While they encourage interaction from individuals, the USOC has blatantly stated that, “other commercial entities may not post about the Games on their corporate social media accounts”.

So, what happens if you make a mistake and post via your company about the event? You may receive a stern letter from the USOC, requesting that you remove the content immediately. If these letters go ignored, the USOC could have the right to take legal action against your organization. While this probably won’t be an issue for smaller companies, it’s always a good idea to taken precautions just in case. 

To prevent any confusion, we’ve gathered the large list of things you can’t say or do this August. We promise, we were just as bummed as you probably will be, as our social media team was looking forward to supporting our U.S. athletes via our Facebook and Twitter pages. Unfortunately, this may take away from some of the spirit of the games, but we must respect the wishes of the organization. Take note, and be sure to share this with your company’s social media manager!

What You Can’t Do

These are the listed words and phrases businesses may not use on social media regarding the Olympic competition in Rio de Janeiro from August 1st through August 24th of 2016:  

1. Trademarked Phrases 

·Olympic                             ·Olympian                               ·Team USA                            ·Future Olympian

·Gateway to Gold               ·Go for the Gold                      ·Going for the Gold                ·Let the Games Begin

·Paralympic                        ·Pan Am Games

2. Terms that Reference Olympics Location 

·Road to Rio                       ·Road to Pyeongchang           ·Road to Tokyo                      ·Rio 2016 

·Pyeongchang 2018           ·Tokyo 2020 

3. Official Olympic Hashtags

 #TeamUSA                         #GofortheGold                        #Rio2016                              #Olympics2016

4. Official Olympic Logos 

Organizations are prohibited from using any official Olympic logos in their social media posts, they are also not allowed to create their own version of Olympic logos.

5. No Retweeting Even Official Olympics Accounts

6. No Posting Olympic Results

7. No Wishing Athletes Good Luck 

8. “Do not host an Olympic- or Paralympic-themed contest or team-building event for employees.”

9. No GIFs Allowed

The USOC has recently added a new classification that states, “Olympic Material must not be broadcast on interactive services”. This extends to GIFs. So viewers and companies are not permitted to share or create such media. 

What You Can Do

While this list may seem extensive, there are ways you can support our athletes abroad, even if you are a company! You just have to get creative. Eliminating the above phrases will be a difficult task for sure, it will also encourage you and your social media team to think completely outside the box this time around. For example, similar to other large events being guarded on social media (#TheBigGame) a similar hashtag #TheBigEvent is being coined as an unofficial term to connect socially about Rio.

Also, our customer, Under Armour, developed an ad featuring Michael Phelps that does not break any of the Rule 40 guidelines, but still has the same powerful message about the intensity of training for the event. They did get permission from the USOC prior to releasing the ad, but we think it is a great example of how you can properly show your support for the games. Think of this challenge as a way to work with the USOC’s guidelines rather than how to get around them. 

Happy posting! 


Kaitlan Whitteberry

Kaitlan Whitteberry is a Magna Cum Laude graduate from the University of Missouri's journalism program, and currently focuses on iOFFICE press releases, software updates and related news.

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