Brands seek Rio gold in new advertising playing field

Fri Apr 1, 2016 10:19am EDT
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By Liana B. Baker

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dozens of major companies and specialty brands that are not official Olympics sponsors have applied to run advertising campaigns featuring athletes ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, taking advantage of new rules that are shaking up the business of marketing surrounding the event.

U.S. multinationals including Mondelez International Inc MDLZ.O, General Mills GIS.N, Under Armour UA.N, Adidas AG ADSGn.DE and Gatorade, a unit of PepsiCo Inc PEP.N, told Reuters they have applied to the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), seeking a waiver that will allow them to compete with official Games sponsors during the Olympics in August and the Paralympics in September.

Others that have applied include Austrian energy drink maker Red Bull, camera maker GoPro Inc GPRO.O, footwear brands Asics Corp 7936.T, Skechers USA Inc SKX.N, Brooks Running, swimsuit company Speedo, and Johnson & Johnson JNJ.N for a charitable campaign, the companies told Reuters.

The applications underline how the Rio Games are set to herald a radical change for advertisers, even if viewers may not notice much difference as U.S. household names such as two-time gold medalist gymnast Gabby Douglas appear in commercials for everything from banks to cereal.

Thanks to a rule change by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after years of lobbying by athletes, official Olympic sponsors will have to share the big names with brands that have paid nothing to the IOC or a National Olympic Committee such as the USOC.

Companies running these campaigns will have to operate under detailed restrictions aimed at retaining some exclusivity for official sponsors such as Coca-Cola COKE.O, Visa V.N and McDonald's Corp MCD.N.

Still, the change to the IOC's "Rule 40" could have a big impact on the multi-billion-dollar marketing engine that drives the Games, said Frank Ryan, head of intellectual property at DLA Piper, a law firm that has worked on sponsorship deals with the IOC and the USOC.

"If 'Rule 40' isn't policed properly, top sponsors will use it to argue for better pricing for top sponsorship deals," Ryan said.   Continued...

Wrestler Helen Maroulis poses for a portrait at the U.S. Olympic Committee Media Summit in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California in this March 9, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files