Strategically Enhancing Partnerships with Olympic and Paralympic Athletes: Essential Planning information

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The excitement surrounding the imminent Paris Olympic Games demonstrates the links between brands and athletes. In a media environment where authenticity and visibility are crucial to commercial success, partnerships with Olympic and Paralympic athletes represent exceptional visibility opportunities for brands. However, these collaborations must be meticulously managed within the framework of precise legislation, to prevent any transgressions, such as ambush marketing or infringement of intellectual property rights. These precautions are essential to ensure that promotion complies with established regulations.

Legal Framework for Olympic and Paralympic Games Communications


The regulatory framework governing communications associated with the Olympic and Paralympic Games is designed to protect the exclusive rights of official partners and uphold the integrity of Olympic trademarks. These assets, listed in article L 141-5 of the French Sports Code, include emblematic symbols such as the Olympic rings and legally protected terms such as ‘Olympic’ or ‘Paralympic’. These elements are registered trademarks subject to rigorous regulations concerning advertising and partnerships.


Consequently, it is essential to meticulously craft a commercial strategy to prevent ambush marketing tactics, which involve unauthorized associations with the Games for commercial gain. For instance, posting an athlete’s performance on social media and using tags that incorporate Olympic assets without official authorization from the organizing committees. Such practices, often perceived as attempts to gain undue association with the event without being an official sponsor, can lead to legal action for trademark infringement.


It is important to distinguish between two main periods for communication campaigns: outside the Games and during the Olympic Games, each governed by its own set of rules and restrictions.


Use of athletes’ images outside the Games: freedom with conditions


Outside the periods of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, brands and companies without official partnerships or licenses with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) can still collaborate with athletes to promote their products or services. These non-official partners, who have personal agreements with the athletes, may use the athletes’ names and images in their advertising, provided they do not use or reference protected Olympic trademarks. This restriction aims to prevent any confusion or implicit association with the Olympic Games, thereby safeguarding the exclusive rights of official partners while allowing athletes to benefit from personal endorsements to highlight their sporting achievements.

Communications management during the Games: Compliance with Rule 40


Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter and the IPC Handbook sets out guidelines for the use of participants’ images in advertising at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Established to preserve the authenticity of the Games and avoid excessive commercialisation, this rule aims to ensure that athletic performances remain the focus of attention, while protecting the exclusive fundraising rights of the official partners.


During the Games period, from 18 July 2024 (opening of the Olympic Village) to 13 August 2024 (two days after the Closing Ceremony), advertising must adhere to specific standards to be considered compliant. Advertisements must be “generic” and established well before the onset of the Games—initiated at least 90 days prior and officially registered on a designated platform by June 18, 2024.


Such campaigns must consistently maintain their pre-Games intensity without any significant amplification during the Games themselves, to prevent any implied association with the Games or its organizing bodies like the IOC, IPC, CNOSF, CPSF, Paris 2024, or the French delegation. The only permissible link to the Games in these advertisements is the inclusion of an athlete’s image, ensuring that all promotions remain within the framework designed to protect the Games’ integrity and the interests of its official sponsors.


As a result, official Olympic and Paralympic partners who have signed personal agreements with an athlete are authorised to use the athlete’s image and to broadcast advertisements in accordance with the terms of their contract with the International Olympic Committee and other organisations governing the Games. These partners can thus actively promote their collaboration with the athletes.


On the other hand, for non-Olympic or Paralympic partners, the Games period imposes specific restrictions: they may continue to broadcast advertisements as long as they do not use any Olympic assets and remain non-generic.


In addition, constant vigilance is required to monitor advertising campaigns during the Games in order to adjust or correct any communication that might violate these rules. This monitoring helps to maintain a balance between the visibility given to official sponsors and the restrictions imposed on non-official partners, thereby ensuring fair competition and respect for the Olympic spirit.


Prioritising vigilance: the key to success for Olympic and Paralympic athlete partnerships


The Olympic Games period offers a unique opportunity for athletes’ partners, incorporating legally informed commercial strategies that not only maximise the impact of partnership campaigns but also ensure brands are protected from potentially onerous legal risks. It is crucial to meticulously plan the launch of your advertising campaigns, to maintain transparent communication with the Games organising committees, and to ensure that the distribution of these campaigns does not cause confusion as to official affiliation with the Games or respect for Olympic intellectual property rights.


Dreyfus Lawfirm can offer expert assistance on these matters, strategic advice and guidance that are crucial to establishing a fruitful and serene partnership and collaboration at this exceptional time.

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