GOING FOR GOLD: Navigating Olympic Advertising, Marketing and Publicity


GOING FOR GOLD: Navigating Olympic Advertising, Marketing and Publicity

1 July 2024

Another Olympic year is upon us, and the Paris 2024 games are fast-approaching. Millions of Australians watch the games. So, naturally it seems like a great opportunity for your brand to capitalise on the country’s increased patriotism and Olympic pride by creating an Olympic themed advertising campaign. However, there are strict rules around what you can and can’t do when advertising or promoting your brand in connection with the Olympics.

Official Sponsor vs Non-Sponsors

The best (and arguably only) way to get in on the fun of an Olympic year is become an official sponsor. That’s because all Olympic imagery is protected by copyright and trademark law. The law also prevents anyone who’s not an official sponsor from using the terms “Olympic”, “Olympiad”, “Olympian” and “Olympic games” and any associated terms.  As an official sponsor, you have paid to get access to those terms and images to use in your advertising. Unfortunately, anyone who’s not an official sponsor is banned from using those terms and images.

I’m NOT an official sponsor – what can I say?

This is the category that most brands will fall into. Unfortunately, this means that you cannot do any of the following for commercial purposes or in association with any goods or services without the permission of the IOC or AOC.

  • Use any Olympic imagery (including the rings);
  • Use any protected expressions (including “Olympic”, “Olympiad”, “Olympian”, “Olympic games” and any similar phrases); and
  • Use any other visual cues or words to imply a link between your brand and the Olympics.

For non-sponsors, any attempt at referencing the Olympics – even if it’s just a one-off post or mentioned once in an ad – could expose you to risk. This is because you could be inadvertently creating an association between your brand and the Olympics, which is something only official sponsors (those who have paid for the right to use Olympic terms and words) can do.

As a non-sponsor is there anything I can do to show support for the Olympics?

As a non-sponsor you can either:

  1. Ask the IOC or AOC for permission and become an official sponsor; or
  2. Make content that doesn’t specifically reference the Olympics but promotes sports more generally.  While you can’t use any references to the Olympics, your brand may be able to make content that:
    • is very generalised (e.g. to sport or athletes in general)
    • focuses on the local team or players only (but no Olympic team uniforms or references can be made)
    • uses a past Olympian who isn’t in this year’s games (but again no reference to the games can be made)
    • makes references to “spirit”, “gold” or “glory” or “Aussies”

However, context is key and there is a fine line between showing general enthusiasm for sport and promoting the Olympic games in some way. You need to be very careful that none of your content implies an endorsement with the Olympics. If you want to try making more generalised content for the games, exercise extreme caution. 

Take Home Message

If you are an official sponsor, you can reference the Olympics pursuant to any agreement you may have with the IOC. However, for everyone else, using Olympic images or protected expressions are prohibited. Instead, you can either become an official sponsor or make a general campaign that doesn’t use Olympic terms and images. However, if you decide to make a general campaign consider seeking legal advice to make sure you don’t accidentally imply that you’re an official sponsor.

If you need advice about whether you can advertise for the Olympics feel free to contact us.

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