Next year will be the first genuinely global "social media Olympics." The reach of the major social media platforms has grown between 50% and 100% since the Rio Games in 2016. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Weibo and WeChat's combined, monthly active user base now reaches 5.3 billion.
The creation of social media accounts, which might have access to this huge audience 24 hours a day, needs only a few minutes. Their appearances in Tokyo will be broadcast to hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide, who can interact with their heroes and heroines online at the moment, on major TV networks and news platforms. Athletes will promote themselves, their brands and their sponsors around the world for the first time for many of them. The well-prepared athlete and his brand sponsors won't want to miss this unique opportunity.
Whilst the IOC has recently seemed to loosen the rule (and will soon give guidelines to explain its new approach), rule 40 implemented by various national Olympic associations remains highly contentious. Following a successful German judicial challenge in February 2019 that described rule 40 as 'abusive behavior', a group of British athletes including Mo Farah recently threatened the British Olympic Association with legal action unless regulations were changed.
Simply put, the argument is that the IOC and Olympics associations prevent athletes who are not their paid employees at the end of the day from making full use of their image and advertising and promotional rights at their peak. Rationale-makers ' justification for continuing the attraction of global or national Olympic Sponsorship is that these restrictions are necessary for them to offer exclusivity categories.
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee has also been creative by introducing a rule that allows athletes to encourage their partnership at Games, as long as they sign a "personal sponsoring commitment." This is an interesting development, but canny brands may think that it is better to maintain their options than to sign up for the Olympic rule book, particularly in a smooth and athletic activism setting.
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