Tokyo 2020: Athletes can now earn during the Olympics through social media promotions


Olympic athletes can finally earn their own money by taking advantage of the new sponsorship rule change that allows them to use their personal social media accounts for promotions during the tournament.

Before now, athletes under the guideline known as Rule 40 were prohibited from engaging in personal sponsorship promotions during the Olympics.

However, in 2019 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) changed the guideline to open the doors for Olympians to post sponsored content and generate another revenue stream.

Some athletes have already started taking advantage of this new change, as Athleta, a sportswear brand that sponsors United states gymnast, Simone Biles, expressed support on social media for her after she announced her withdrawal from multiple events. This was a move that would not have been endorsed in previous Olympics.

Similarly, Taiwanese weightlifter, Hsing-chun Kuo, was able to promote telecommunications provider, Taiwan Mobile Co Ltd. on her Instagram account.

Athletes can now earn during the Olympics through Social Media
Athletes can now use their social-media followings to promote items such as sportswear and washing detergent during the Olympics

There are still restrictions

Despite the changes to the rule, agents told Bloomberg that the complexities of the new rule and the IOC’s control still makes it difficult for athletes to fully realize their earning potential.

Rule 40 was initially set up to prevent ambush marketing, where businesses that had no connection to the games try to associate with the Olympics to gain exposure.

However, agents have long complained that the old sponsorship rules concentrate power in the hands of the IOC and prevent revenue from trickling down to athletes.

Tokyo 2020: Athletes can now earn during the Olympics through social media promotions
Nigeria’s Olympic bronze medalist, Ese Brume

Despite the latest changes, reports from some agents show that they are not satisfied. According to them, the new Rule 40 is not going to be a gold rush for athletes because it is unevenly applied across countries by national Olympic committees, deterring potential sponsors who do not want to navigate the complexity.

“It’s de-motivated potential sponsors to start working with athletes, we have experienced this on several occasions. It’s still not to an extent where sponsors or potential partners of these athletes have huge possibilities or ways to expose themselves.”

Kim Vanderlinden, co-founder of sports management agency We Are Many told Bloomberg

In summary

With many athletes now emerging as global brands in an age of social media, the rule change illustrates the changing dynamic between Olympic organizers and athletes.

The IOC can no longer completely protect the official sponsors of the games as their dominance is waning. A key reason for the change is that athletes now serve as the primary source of branding for the Olympic Games.

Despite the initial complications, the new development has, nonetheless, introduced a new source of income especially for sports personalities such as weightlifters and boxers and swimmers who typically make less money than soccer players.

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