If you’re an elite track and field athlete here is how you earn a living: prize money, appearance money and sponsorship money. And the greatest of these is sponsorship money.
These endorsement deals are more than just ad campaigns; they’re relationships between an athlete and a company. It’s a two-way street. Businesses like to promote the successes of the athletes in their family and the athletes like to give shout outs to the companies who have supported them. It’s the way the athletics world works. Except for an Olympic year. Then, say, PowerBar, can’t tweet good luck wishes to marathoner Meb Keflezighi. It can’t use the words “Rio” or “2016” or “Summer” or “Medal” in any social media post or advertising campaign. Heck, it can’t even re-tweet official results. That’s because PowerBar is a non-Olympic sponsor of an Olympic athlete.
Enter “Rule 40,” created by the International Olympic Committee to protect companies who pay bazillions of dollars to be an official sponsor. Protecting official sponsors is important. But so too is common sense. Sure words like “Olympics” can be trademarked but “Summer” and “2016” and “Medal” is going a bit too far. The reality is that athletes need the financial relationship with their sponsors in order to make ends meet so they can train to compete in the Games in the first place. No sponsors, no training, no athletes.