It’s no secret that social media has changed the way audiences experience events. It’s almost unheard of for any large-scale event to take place without a hashtag, dedicated social media accounts and an encouragement for attendees to share their experiences across their personal social accounts. Large televised events spark conversations across the social media platforms with consumers and brands alike offering witty commentary. While consumers are free to discuss events using trademarked words and phrases, the same liberties do not apply to brands and businesses.
Every year of the Olympics (whether summer or winter) the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) publishes updated brand guidelines on their website explaining the privileges of both individuals and brands during the course of the events. This list of do’s and don’ts also includes the most current logos that USOC owns the rights for.
Below is a list of phrases that USOC has trademarked and lists on their website.
- OLYMPIC, OLYMPIAD, OLYMPIAN and FUTURE OLYMPIAN
- GO FOR THE GOLD and GATEWAY TO GOLD
- LET THE GAMES BEGIN
- PARALYMPIC, PARALYMPIAD and PARALYMPIAN
- PAN-AMERICAN, PAN AM GAMES
- PYEONGCHANG 2018, TOKYO 2020, BEIJING 2022, PARIS 2024, LOS ANGELES 2028, LA 2028, LA28
- ROAD TO RIO, ROAD TO PYEONGCHANG and ROAD TO TOKYO
- TEAM USA
Not only does USOC speak to this list, but they have rights to any logos or word marks that would be associated with “Olympic,” “Paralympic” and “Pan American Game” in the future. On a similar note, altering the word “Olympic” to suggest an affiliation is prohibited, meaning terms like “Snowlympics” or “Winterlympics” may not be used to discuss events.
There are rules for usage of the above text, and imagery corresponding to the events, before and during the Games.
Rules for text usage:
- In short, the only company, organization or brand that is allowed to use USOC intellectual property in their social media content is an official partner like Coke or P&G. This limitation applies to all social media channels from Facebook to Periscope to platforms not explicitly listed in the USOC official statement. Most notably, this means that corporate social media accounts cannot even use hashtags that contain USOC IP, so #Olympics #Olympian #TeamUSA #PyeongChang2018 and even #GoForTheGold are all off limits for brands trying to join the conversation.
- Non-journalistic and corporate social media accounts are not allowed to mention Team USA or Olympic or Paralympic athletes before or during the Games. According to the IPC and IOC, when a business uses the name of an athlete during the official “blackout period”—February 1 through 28—the athlete’s eligibility may be jeopardized. However, this rule only applies during the blackout period. After the 28, this restriction is lifted.
Rules for imagery usage:
- The restrictions continue for images or video that may be related to the Olympics. Corporate social media accounts may not post images of Team USA or any other USOC IP unless the business’s focus is sharing news or information, and they may not post an image of anything that resembles the Olympic rings.
So, what can your brand do to tie into the Games without becoming a sponsor?
- Post content that alludes to the Olympics: Ford applied this tactic during the 2016 Olympic events by creating ads that featured people participating in the same activities as Olympic athletes in everyday scenarios. One ad portrays a man completing a pommel horse routine on top of his SUV while his friend records, and cheers him on. The videos effectively alluded to Olympic events without using banned language or any USOC intellectual property, and Ford’s message that “We are all fans” came through loud and clear.
- Watch others: During both the Super Bowl and the Olympics, brands and businesses often use an alternative phrase or hashtag that allows them to refer to the Games without using a trademarked phrase. For example, during the 2016 Olympics some brands used the hashtag #TheBigEvent to refer to the game without receiving unwanted consequences.
- Tune in: It’s not uncommon for brands and businesses to have teams on hand during highly televised events to help create content around unpredictable moments. Oreo could not have anticipated that the power would go out during the 2013 Super Bowl, but because they were tuned in to the event, they created a tweet about “dunking in the dark” that was more memorable than some of the commercials that aired that year.
– Emily Williams, Media Strategist—Content Marketing