In previous Olympics, the International Olympic Committee tightly controlled access to viewing audiences with strict rules about what merchandise, logos, etc. could be seen at venues. This included what products athletes were allowed to bring to their competitions, and some athletes protested this rule -- known as “Rule 40”-- in years past. In 2016, the IOC has relaxed that rule a bit, asking for brands to file paperwork for a waiver if interested.
“To be a world-class athlete requires years and years of training, which is expensive. Athletes seek sponsorships early in their careers. Over time, they become extremely loyal to these brands, in part because of the support they receive, and also because they’ve gotten used to these products in their training. They want to show their support when they are on the Olympic stage, too,” said Kim Saxton, a clinical associate professor of marketing at the IU Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis.
“It makes sense that many brands want to support a winning athlete throughout their career, but not all of these brands can be Olympic sponsors because of costs and exclusivity agreements. The challenge for the IOC will be ensuring that official sponsors get their money’s worth while allowing athletes to support the brands they believe in. While the rule change creates opportunities for smaller brands, it will also make the IOC even more concerned with compliance,” said Saxton, who has worked with executives from Fortune 500 and other large companies, including Nike, to provide strategic planning and market research services.