SBD/August 27, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Richards-Ross Takes On IOC's Rule 40; Calls It "Exploitation"

Richards-Ross said that she and her peers had not laid out a specific plan yet for Rule 40
U.S. Gold Medal-winning sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross has “taken on Rule 40, an International Olympic Committee regulation that limits how athletes can promote their sponsors,” according to Mary Pilon of the N.Y. TIMES. Rule 40 "restricts advertising activities of athletes and coaches surrounding an Olympics." Richards-Ross said, “If more of the athletes would speak up about it, there would be more attention put on it. At the end of the day, it’s exploitation, and when people hear the facts, they’ll be outraged just like we the athletes are. I think every movement needs a couple of people to stand up for it.” She added, “The Olympic reality has changed.” IOC officials have said that their “exclusive partnerships with sponsors have helped fuel the Games and allowed them to finance programs like Olympic Solidarity, which gives money to athletes in need worldwide.” IOC Communications Dir Mark Adams said, “It’s certainly something that the vast majority of athletes tell us they appreciate. And a small sacrifice at Games time by a few athletes can benefit the majority of athletes and sport in general.” U.S. middle-distance runner Nick Symmonds said, “I understand that the IOC needs revenue. But I don’t see how an athlete having a sponsor detracts from that. I want to share the space.” He added, “To have someone like Sanya come in and publicly speak out is really what this cause needs. I’m not afraid to put my opinions out there, but I’m not as decorated as Sanya. When she steps forward, people listen.”

GOING FORWARD: Richards-Ross said that she and her peers “had not laid out a specific plan going forward, nor had she heard back from Olympic officials about her campaign.” While it will be “difficult to maintain interest beyond the four-year Summer Olympic cycle, she is optimistic about gaining attention among fans and organizers even after the Games have ended.” Some of the options that have been discussed among the athletes are “expanding rules for athletes in displaying sponsor logos, posting on Twitter about sponsors or offering prize money in a similar fashion to the world championships.” Richards-Ross said, “I have been getting a lot of positive feedback from people. And I do think we’ll be able to come together. The one thing we all agree on is it’s going to be a hard fight, to get all the way to the top with the IOC, but I’m hoping that this is something that can be peaceful. I don’t think it needs to be drawn-out and ugly. If we can just be included in the conversation” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/26).
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