What is Rule 40 and how will it affect skiers in 2014?

February 13th, 2013 by

Rule 40 first gained national prominence during the 2012 Summer Games in London when a band of track and field athletes spoke out about the rule on Twitter. Since skiers generally make the majority of their income from sponsors, this rule is primed to hit home in our sport. Here’s what you need to know about it.

What is Rule 40?

“Except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games,” states the London 2012 official guidelines.

Rule 40 was originally put in place when the Olympics were meant for amateur athletes only. Of course, this hasn’t been the case for some time (professionals started participating in the 1970s), so now the stated reason for requiring Rule 40 is to “protect against ambush marketing; prevent unauthorized commercialization of the Games; and to protect the integrity of athletes’ performances of the Games.”

But, as The New York Times reports, the rule primarily “aims to prevent ambush marketing diluting the message of companies like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Visa, which spend heavily to be exclusive partners of the Olympics.”

While Rule 40 dictates that brands cannot use Olympic athletes in their marketing, the IOC Social Media Guidelines go further and dictate that athletes can’t mention brands, either: “Participants and other accredited persons are not permitted to promote any brand, product or service within a posting, blog or tweet or otherwise on any social media platforms or on any websites.”

During the London 2012 Games, Rule 40 was in effect from July 18 until three days after the Closing Ceremony on August 15.

How will Rule 40 and Social Media Guidelines affect skiers going into Sochi 2014?

Most skiers earn the bulk of their paycheck from sponsors. Sponsors enable the skiers to train year-round, travel to events and receive the support required to compete at an elite level. Once the official Rule 40 timeframe goes into place, the only mention a company can make of their athlete is to list them as a team member on their website, so long as it’s not on the homepage. A skier won’t be able to mention or promote their sponsors in any way, unless their sponsor happens to be an official partner of the Olympics.

The penalties for breach of Rule 40 are serious, and can result in financial penalties, removal of accreditation, or disqualification from the Games completely.

When is the Rule 40 timeframe for Sochi 2014?

The IOC hasn’t released the Rule 40 timeframe yet for Sochi 2014, and details about whether there will be changes to the rule for 2014 are still unclear. Patrick Sandusky, USOC Head of Communications, recently told Forbes.com, “We have been actively talking to the Athletes’ Advisory Council and working with the IOC over the long-term to see what can be done to make that a better relationship.”

What do you think about Rule 40 and the Social Media Guidelines? Let us know in the comments.

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