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Olympics | Athletes to watch | Regulations on ads
July 2016

Who and what to watch

at the Olympics

Which South African athletes have a chance of a podium place and can brands tweet and post about their performances? We give some pointers on what to expect from Team SA and what you may, or not, tell others about product or athlete performances

On 5 August South Africa’s Olympic squad of about 230 athletes and officials will walk onto the track in Rio during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games … again dressed in a Chinese brand without any representation in South Africa.

Despite the R31.5-m deal Erke signed before the London Olympics to be the official clothing supplier for South African national teams until 2017, this Chinese brand is no longer listed as an Olympic partner on the SASCOC website … but newbie 361 Degrees is.

Described as the 2nd largest sports brand in China, this young brand began expanding internationally in 2013 with a running, training, trail and lifestyle shoes, as well as a sports clothing collection. Its first global expansion was to the US and Brazil and recently they entered some European markets. But they do not have a distributor in South Africa.

Any products supplied by 361 Degrees to our Olympic team will therefore have to be sourced directly from China.

We asked SASCOC about the extent of the contract with 361 Degrees and the status of their contract with Erke, as well as whether South African-based brands were given the opportunity to bid for the technical supplier contract. We failed to get a response before we went to print.

South Africa’s athletes will be entering the stadium alongside teams like hosts Brazil, dressed by Nike, who is also the official clothing sponsor of the event. The huge contingents from the US and China will also enter the stadium in Nike technical clothing, as well as smaller teams from Estonia, Kenya and Canada.

The German team’s clothing was introduced by adidas with a stylish fashion show in Düsseldorf, where top model Lena Gercke joined some of the athletes on stage. The 75-part range will be sold in adidas stores after the Olympics.

Designer Stella McCartney will be the creative director behind the range adidas is supplying to Team Great Britain. Apart from the innovative technical apparel, she will also supply a supporters’ range.

The Jamaicans will be dressed by PUMA — including superstar Usain Bolt, who recently renewed his contract with the brand — as will the Cuban athletes.

While athletes have to participate in the clothing supplied by their federation’s official partner, shoes are considered to be part of their equipment. They are therefore allowed to participate in a shoe brand of their own choice. The same rule applies to the racing suits worn by swimmers.

Balls that will be seen

The international federations governing the different sporting codes select the balls used in their codes’ matches.

The official FIFA soccer match ball is the Errejota from adidas, launched at the end of last year, which is a re-design of the symmetric six-paneled Brazuca ball they developed for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, also held in Brazil. The 3D surface further helps to deliver aerodynamic movement and a better grip.

Mikasa supplies the balls that will be used in Olympic volleyball matches — beach and indoor — as well as the water polo ball.

The Mikasa MVA200 in blue and yellow has been the official competition ball for all international volleyball matches since Beijing 2008. Mikasa asked some of the world’s best volleyball players to give input when they developed the ball that will be used in Rio. The embossed double dimple cover and eight panels offer a more stable flight, and it has improved adhesion and visibility. The softer ball is not so elastic as older models, which ensures more effective defensive play.

The FINA approved Mikasa W6000W had been the official water polo ball of the 2012 London Olympics as well as all the most important FINA international competitions for men. The colour combination — yellow, blue and pink — makes the ball very visible to the audience. It has a top quality rubber cover with a professionally buffed surface and a nylon wound with double laminated butyl bladder.

Olympics | Athletes to watch | Regulations on ads

Rules on ads during the Games

The IOC is very strict about using athletes for promotional purposes during a blackout period around the Olympics. Even a tweet from a brand could cause trouble, reports Chilton Mellem

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is very protective of their sponsors, or as they call them partners, because the millions they pay for the right to associate their brand name with the Olympics pay the officials’ salaries and cover their contribution to hosting the Games. The budget for the Rio 2016 Games was, for example, $7-bn, which had to be privately sourced from their sponsors. The IOC and Rio organizing committee therefore have very strict rules about advertising around the Olympics.

The IOC also don’t like the suggestion that using certain brands/products might give an athlete an advantage, and have compiled guidelines for using athletes in advertising referencing the Olympic Games, known as Rule 40. The guidelines on the use of athlete images in the blackout period from 27 July to 24 August, which is 9 days before the start of the Rio Olympics until 3 days after the closing ceremony, have been published by the World Federation Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI).

Rule 40 is in addition to the other ambush marketing rules that prohibit a brand from creating the impression that they are associated with the Olympics in some way. It specifies that during this period no images of participating athletes may be used in any marketing material, which includes social media posts, congratulatory messages, press releases or as part of a generic advertising campaign.

It is therefore important to be careful in the wording of any advertising during the period. Words such as gold or Rio might seem uninvolved, but will still be assessed for their context by the IOC.

Even when trying to retweet from a newspaper, one should make sure that the context is for editorial purposes and not for commercial gain. Failure to do so may contract a reaction from the IOC or local Olympic committee.

An athlete may mention a brand that is his uniform supplier, but he would not be permitted to make any suggestion that would seem that he associates a product with his performance in the Olympics.

This relates to social media as well. If an athlete posts something on social media that may be interpreted as advertising, he may be called by his Chef de Mission for a disciplinary hearing. An athlete may post a picture of himself wearing a brand, but he may not promote it with a caption.

Sharing a post on social media has to follow the IOC social and digital media guidelines as well.

If a brand would like to send a congratulatory message, it would have to be careful not to infringe on the rights of the national team sponsor. For example, because PUMA sponsors the Jamaican team and if they congratulate Usain Bolt on social media or their website, “no one is going to run after PUMA,” says the WFSGI. “But, if they do a specific congratulatory message targeting the German market, in German, that would be a problem.”

They do, however, recommend that a national committee sponsor rather congratulate the team than an individual athlete. For example, New Balance should rather congratulate the Irish team, which they sponsor, rather than a specific athlete.

Even family members of an athlete have to be cautious when sending messages.

A key point to keep in mind in a congratulatory message is to keep it factual. Even Athletes have to adhere to the IOC guidelines.

When launching a campaign, it is important to be clear whether the campaign is national or International. Advertisers would have to consult the NOC if it is a national campaign and the IOC if it is an international one. For example, an advert featuring a South African athlete will have to be submitted to NOCSA for approval.

It is also best to cover all bases by checking with the IOC or the national committee when it comes to product launches. When submitting a generic product, it is best to state so.

Always remember to substantiate this by informing the IOC that the commercial would have been made, even if the Games had not been on. When submitting a commercial provide as much information as possible for the IOC to assess if it is infringing their rights.

Keep in mind, the closer to the Games an advert or campaign is flighted, the harder it becomes to prove that it is unrelated to the Olympics.


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