It costs to be an Offical Olympic sponsor. Moving forward, Olympic Global Partners (which is the highest level of sponsorship) will spend a whopping $200 million for the right to associate themselves with the Olympics for a four-year period, or two Olympic Games. Obviously, this is a huge chunk of change for the International Olympic Committee. In fact, sponsorships account for 45% of Olympic Marketing Revenues.
Coca-Cola, which has supported the Olympic Games since 1928, and other Offical Global Partners have a leg up on competition when it comes to advertising during the Games. They are allowed to use trademarked terms such as “Olympics” and “Rio 2016,” and they are also allowed to use the Olympic logo alongside their brand logo in campaigns.
But what about those brands that don’t want to hand over $50 million per year on top of their already thin marketing budgets? Two words: Ambush Marketing. No brand is going to pass up the chance of advertising during one of the most globally engaging events, but they have to find a way to get around the IOC’s pesky Rule 40. Rule 40, for those who didn’t read it in full, basically says that brands that are not official sponsors may not use trademarked terms and/or images during the advertising blackout period (July 27 – August 24). Beginning this year, brands who are not sponsors of the Olympics are still not allowed to use trademarked terms/images, but they are now allowed to continue running existing campaigns that feature Olympic athletes.
Nike, who is not an Official Partner, launched its “Unlimited” campaign in June when it released a video featuring British runner Mo Farah. The brand has since produced 19 subsequent YouTube videos as part of the “Unlimited” campaign, featuring Olympians such as Alex Morgan, Kevin Durant, Serena Williams, and Simone Biles. Similarly, Under Armour launched its “Rule Yourself” campaign almost a year ago with videos featuring Tom Brady and Stephen Curry. However, within the past 5-6 months, UA changed its strategy to focus on the US Women’s Gymnastics Team and Michael Phelps, who is the face of the 2016 Olympic Games.
One interesting thing to see is if the relaxation of Rule 40 will impact performance of the Official Global Partners. If Partners like P&G, Visa, and Samsung do not see adequate return on their enormous investments, they may apply pressure on the IOC to either A) lower the cost of Global Partnership or B) change Rule 40 back to its original state. If, however, the Global Partners are satisfied with their advertising performance during Rio 2016, this new version Rule 40 could be a win-win for both official and unofficial sponsors alike.