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Blog 3 Aug 2016

Should one capitalize on Olympic brands?

This Saturday the Summer Olympic Games start in Rio de Janeiro. This is a global event with billions of viewers and offers the perfect commercial opportunity for sponsors and other companies. Like FIFA at the World Cup, the IOC has drawn up criteria for commercially capitalizing during the Olympic Games.

Olympic trademarks

It will not come as a surprise that the logo of the Olympic rings are registered as a trademark by the IOC. But not just the rings are registered, also ‘RIO 2016’, the logo of the organising committee and even the word ‘OLYMPIC’ is registered. In practise, the IOC only gives their sponsors the exclusive right to use the trademarks. Also sponsors of NOC*NSF are allowed to use the Olympic marks. Other parties are not allowed to use these marks for commercial purposes, such as advertisements and commercials. Terms such as ‘Olympic deal’, or an ‘Olympic’ activity are therefore prohibited.

Referring to the Games or to individual athletes is not allowed, not even by sponsors of the individual athletes.
Bart ten Doeschate - Trademarks & Designs

Social media

These rules also apply to social media. Moreover, they might even be stricter and because of the character of social media, easier and faster to cross. For example, IOC prohibits the use of its marks in tweets, even the hashtag #RIO2016. Referring to the Games or to individual athletes is also not allowed, not even by sponsors of the individual athletes. These sponsors must abide to a ‘black out’ period, starting Wednesday 27 July until 24 August, in which expressions that refer to the Games and the athletes are strictly prohibited. The ultimate sanction: exclusion of the athlete.


The IOC and NOC*NSF have voiced that these rules will be strictly enforced in order to prevent ambush marketing. This serves to the benefit of the official sponsors, who each have paid 100 million dollars for the sponsorship.

What is allowed?

Basically, as long as advertisements, commercials and commercial tweets do not connect to the Games and the athletes, it is tolerated. But, also the use of terms such as ‘medal’, ‘gold’ and ‘Rio de Janeiro’ are being checked by the IOC and NOC*NSF. So, think before you tweet!