In preparation for the Olympic games in Rio, the IOC debuted a list of social media rules that have had brands both laughing and scrambling to participate in one of the year’s biggest social media phenomenons a “legal” way.
The rules, which are exceedingly detailed, do not allow brands to: use the word Olympic, mention individual athletes, wish athletes luck, mention or use hashtags like #Rio2016, post event results, feature their own Olympic themed team-building event, or in the latest addendum, make or create GIFs or other short sharable videos of Olympic moments.
In other countries the laws can be even more intense. In Australia using words like “faster”, “higher” and “stronger” are also prohibited.
It seems that that IOC, while trying to control and contain their brand, is trying to wrestle a 400 pound gorilla into a shoebox and take home the gold. The whole world is watching and now the whole world participates in sharing their pride, joy, sorrow and anguish on social media. There is no way that the Olympics can expect to be exempt from that, despite the narrow track it’s established.
Some might argue that non-sponsoring brands shouldn’t be able to mooch off of this event, but brand managers and social media specialists know that being a part of the social swirl and world conversation is an important part of an active brand. Just a few days after the release of these rules, we saw numerous brands break the rules left and right. Some of these companies may be unaware but many are large enough to have their eyes and ears open for the challenges that the rules have presented and be savvy enough to avoid mistakes and missteps.
Sometimes the strictest limits allow for real creativity to shine. If you’ve been watching you’ve seen ads that allude to the Olympics or subtly (or not so subtly) hearken feelings of patriotism, athleticism and global unity.
Apple’s ad, “The Human Family” debuted during the Olympic opening ceremony features photos and videos from all over the world, with human subjects from all over the world set to a Maya Angelou poem but leaves anything “Olympic” untouched.
Ford’s “We are All Fans” utilizes Snapchat like imagery to build its humorous, energetic ad which shows everyday situations and likens them to athletic events, such as comparing putting a child into a car seat with a wrestling match. Neither Ford or Apple are sponsors but their creative campaigns easily fit into the milieu of the Olympics and may be more memorable than those of the sponsors.
Other brands, like Zerorez, have taken umbrage with the IOCs rules and brought a lawsuit against the committee for freedom of speech overreach.
How do in-the-moment memes fair in this 5-ring circus? #PhelpsFace imagery and posts soared among brands who co-opted his glowering look for their own benefit and used a grainy phone photo of a television screen. The rules state that you can’t feature Olympic athletes in your social posts. A huge event like this just keeps giving and giving, in a social media sense, and to bow out of the conversation can seem out-of-touch or as though brands are ignoring what’s captivating the rest of our “second screen” world. So what’s a brand to do? The truth is perhaps that there are so many thousands of tweets and posts from companies and brands that the IOC simply cannot sift through them all and expect to bring the torch down on every single one, but still it’s a risky move for a bigger company.
What is the outcome of this restricted sharing? Are they overstepping boundaries? The final results remain to be seen but there is no doubt that brands can still take home the gold without setting foot anywhere near Rio.