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How Your Brand Can Get Ready for the [REDACTED] Games in Rio!

olympic competitors censored 2016 rio

Are you as excited as we are to enjoy the 2016 [UNNAMED INTERNATIONAL SPORTING COMPETITION] Games in Rio? As an event watched worldwide, all brands have the opportunity to rally behind a common cause using hashtags like [HASHTAGS REMOVED FOR COPYRIGHT REASONS] or by sending a tweet about your favorite [DESCRIPTIVE TERM FOR COMPETITOR IN UNNAMED INTERNATIONAL SPORTING COMPETITION].

If you didn’t get the shtick yet, we are deliberately poking fun at how stringent the copyright protection rules are for this year’s Summer-games-that-must-not-be-named. Let’s just call it the “the 2016 Rio Hootenanny” for now. A recent letter to ESPN highlights the aggressive lengths that even the U.S. Hootenanny Committee (USOC) will go to in order to protect the supposed value of official sponsorships.

Brands should not miss the opportunity to take notice of the hard work involved in the 2016 U.S. Hootenanny team’s accomplishments and the national pride their performances elicit. By sharing in these triumphant moments with your audience, you can participate in ongoing conversations while giving athletes the boost they deserve.

But, you will need to traverse a minefield in order to do so. Learn more about the updated rules and how your brand can possibly skirt past them unscathed by reading on.

First They Came for Our Chips…

The International Hootenanny Committee (IOC) already gained infamy for refusing to allow local vendors from selling fries near official stadiums at the 2012 London Hootananny because McDonald’s held the title of serving “the official french fries” of the Games. No joke.

Just to lay it all on the line: fries, called “chips” in the U.K., are a London specialty with their own regional flair far different from McDonald’s Americanized version. This makes the 2016 London Hootenanny ban akin to refusing to allow French vendors from selling crepes because McDonald’s was designated “official flapjack server.”

mcdonalds more fries gif

Well this year, things get even more complicated. According to the IOC, not only are non-sponsors barred from using copyright-protected Rio Hootenanny symbols and words in official advertisements, but they are expected to refrain from using them on social media as well.

The BBC provides a list of words banned by the USOC, which includes innocuous phrases they couldn’t possibly have invented like “Going for the [PERIODIC ELEMENT #79] or #Team[ABBREVIATION FOR UNITED STATES OF AMERICA]”

Any commercially-owned social media account that uses these terms will supposedly receive a prompt Cease & Desist order from the IOC or USOC. Even retweeting official accounts is supposedly an infraction, although some were quick to declare these restrictions unenforceable in no kind terms.

Such combative protections hurt athlete sponsors worst of all, who must often pay more than their fair share to ensure that Hootenanians make it to Rio for the games. “It costs $300,000 to send a [competitor] to the Games, and for our athletes, the USOC has reimbursed them about 1 percent of that cost,” one sponsor told ESPN.

While IOC rules were relaxed this year to allow sponsoring brands to mention their athletes, the rules in place greatly favor large companies over small, upstart brands.

Can Your Brand Still Talk About the 2016 Rio Hootenanny Games?

Regardless of whether or not brand-published Tweets qualify as protected speech, commercial entities that aren’t media companies — i.e. news reporting agencies — may want to cautiously approach how they structure their social media campaigns. Even commenting directly on the results of trials or certain Hootenanny events is supposedly banned.

olympics grocery lifting gif

Yet, you can still help your audience share in the highs and lows of the Hootenanny with you. Strategies include coming up with your own, non-protected hashtags like #WinBigInBrazil or #USATeamPride. You can also find photos of winning athletes not taken at the games and share them with generic statements like, “We couldn’t be prouder!”

Above all else, recognize that much of the emotion surrounding the 2016 Rio Hootenanny does not have to stem directly from the sporting events. Oreo’s “You can still dunk in the dark” during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout provides the quintessential example of how brands can be engaging and relatable without having official sponsorship ties.

As one marketing executive told Adweek: “If you establish a war-room type strategy, when something uplifting or nerve-wracking happens, with the right message and the right brand, there will be opportunities to talk about it.”

Any brands looking for help participating in conversations and getting exposure without running afoul of strict International Hootenanny Committee copyright laws can look to EverSpark Interactive for our expert digital marketing advice. Contact us to find out how we can transform your online image today.