Tag Archives: sponsorships

Olympic Athletes and Social Media

Social media is here to stay. And, to paraphrase tag line from a heavily-advertised financial services company, social media is “everywhere you want to be” – even at the Olympic Games. With more than 10,500 athletes (most of whom are younger than the IOC leaders) from 204 countries, there is a lot of social networking communication going on at the Games, and around the world.

In order to promote and protect the official sponsors of the London Olympics, the International Olympic Organization prohibits athletes from appearing in advertising shortly before and during the Olympic Games. The IOC’s ‘Rule 40’ also prohibits the use of social media for promoting non-Olympic sponsors. However,  Rule 40 does not apply to athletes who have endorsement deals with the official sponsors (such as Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s, etc.). If the lucky athlete has an official Games sponsor, then they can promote the company freely in their tweets and Facebook updates. For everyone else, the ban is in place. The IOC has gone as far as requiring athletes who have posted about non-sponsors to delete the postings.

Athletes and reporters have been speaking out against Rule 40, arguing that the rule benefits the investors of the Olympics, but does not protect or benefit the athletes who are competing. Athletes have argued that during the highly viewed Olympics – which is one of the few viewing opportunities for the non-mainstream sports – the ban reduces the athlete’s value to their sponsors, making it difficult to thank and promote the companies that have helped the athletes in their Olympic journey.

To help make the point about the ways in which Rule 40 impose limitations on the athletes, they started a campaign to get the rule rescinded at #WeDemandChange. One athlete competing in the 100-meter hurdles, Dawn Harper, has gone so far as to tweet photos with “Rule 40” tape applied over the brand names on her hairdryer, and her own mouth. For the U.S. athletes who rely heavily on sponsorships, the rule has limited their opportunity to gain needed funding.


Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

1.      Divide students into groups and have them discuss the pros and cons for the IOC’s Rule 40.
2.      Why did the IOC implement this rule?
3.      What are implications for the athletes and their sponsors?
4.      Have students research how the athletes are supporting or opposing this rule on Twitter.
5.      What have the posts been at #WeDemandChange?
6.      In groups, have students develop an alternative to Rule 40. Is there a middle ground that protects both the Olympic Games and the athletes?

Source:  Ad Age Digital, 7/31/12

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Branding and Sponsors at Olympics


When is a sponsorship worth the expense? While official Olympic sponsorships are limited and expensive, many other companies want to see their brands associated with the compelling 2012 London Olympic Games. Olympic sponsors pay a high price for the elite placements; sponsors have paid more than $4 billion toward the cost of organizing the events for the 204 countries represented at the Games.

To enforce the sponsors’ contracts, the International Olympic Committee has developed ‘Rule 40’ which gives Olympic organizers the right to punish – and even go so far as to disqualify – competitors if they try to promote their own sponsors, be it online (on Twitter and Facebook accounts) or on the playing field.

What’s a non-sponsoring company to do in this case?  What are some of their options for showing support and highlighting a company’s sponsorship of athletes? The lines are blurred as celebrities carry their brand loyalties and sponsorships onto the global sports stage. Take a look at some of the photos and video clips of the event and you can see logos on everything from gym bags, apparel, sunglasses, food, and headphones.

One notable marketer at this year’s Games is the U.S. Rapper, Dr. Dre. Beats by Dr. Dre Headphones are popping up in a lot of Olympic venues. An example: The Olympian with the most-ever medals, U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, is often spotted with Dr. Dre headphones on at swim meets. And, the company has managed to outfit a number of the elite British athletes with a special Union Jack- designed Beats by Dr. Dre headphones. The guerrilla marketing campaign gave the unique headphones to a number of British athletes in London, including a goalkeeper, tennis player, diver, and swimmers. In return, a number of athletes have tweeted about the headphones; giving Dr. Dre Olympic-level visibility without the high-priced Olympic sponsor price tag.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Review the Olympic Web site and its approach to sponsorship.: http://www.olympic.org/sponsors
  2. What are the sponsoring companies? What are the advantages of the sponsorships?
  3. Have students pull up images and videos from the Olympic games. Check multiple sports.
  4. List the brands seen in the images.
  5. Which brands were not on the official sponsor list?
  6. Discuss how these brands got visible. What did the companies need to do?
  7. Discuss ethical and legal issues. Is what the non-sponsor companies doing ethical or legal? What about the athletes’ actions?

Source:  Associated Press,  Ad Age Daily, 8/1/12

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Sponsorships on the Rise

Quick – can you name the top U.S. companies that use sponsorship as a critical part of their marketing programs? If you chose soft drinks, beer, and automobiles you hit it out of the park. In 2011, PepsiCo has the largest sponsor in the U.S., spending an estimated $340 – $345 million on event sponsorships. Pepsi is flowed by Coca-Cola at $265 – $270 million, making the soft drink industry the largest user of sponsorships in marketing campaigns.

Not far behind is Anheuser-Busch in a mega deal as the official beer sponsor for the NFL, a deal costing an estimated $50 million per year for the next six years. AB’s current spending is estimated between $255 – $260 million.

According to IEG, a sponsorship research and consulting firm, the number of companies spending at least $15 million on sponsorships stands at a count of 86 firms, an increase from last year’s 77 firms. There were 44 companies that increased their sponsorship spending, and only seven companies that decreased spending.

With the Summer Olympics starting soon, look for large corporate sponsors to own the different venues. Among the official sponsors are Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Panasonic, Proctor & Gamble, and more.


Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss how sponsorships fit into the promotional mix.
  2. When are sponsorships effective, and not effective?
  3. Divide students into teams. Have them develop a list of the 10 top sponsorship companies.
  4. Have students come up with a list of the top events these companies might sponsor.
  5. Compare the student list with the article list. Discuss what makes sponsorship a good fit for these companies.
  6. In teams, have students choose a product that is not commonly thought of as an event sponsor (ex: toilet paper or baggies). Next, have students develop a sponsorship opportunity for this company.
  7. What is the target market for this product? Why does the event fit?

Source:  Ad Age Daily, 5/1/12

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