August 16th 2016

The Olympic Social Media Blackout (and how Brands Work Around It)

Posted by Will Shadbolt

Right now, the Olympics are happening in Rio, Brazil, and from impressive videos to memes, social media is running wild with it. Most business pages, though, cannot take part in the fun. That's because any non-sponsor brands are prohibited by the U.S. Olympic Committee from using a variety of trademarks or phrases during the games. These include "Olympic," "Team USA," "Tokyo 2020," words that use part of "Olympic," like Mathlympics, and posting results. Sharing or retweeting something with a banned word in it is also prohibited. 

Why are they so stringent? Some marketing specialists blame Nike and their advertising during the 1996 Olympics. That year they were not an official sponsor, but that didn't stop their marketing. They opened a Nike Center near the village for athletes and handed out their flags to those in the events' audience. Their headlines were obnoxious, too. A magazine ad read, "If you're not here to win, you're a tourist," and billboards near the games said, "You don't win silver, you lose gold." But what angered the Committee and official sponsors the most were shoes. Michael Johnson won gold in the 400-meter dash while wearing a golden pair of Nike shoes. If viewers missed them the first time around, they had another chance when Johnson appeared on Time Magazine's cover with the shoes hanging around his neck. The whole debacle is cited as why the Committee is coming down so hard now. 

But there is a reason "Creative" goes by that name, and this summer brands were quick to think of solutions to get around these difficulties on social media and other advertisements. For example, Ford is putting out Snapchat and TV ads for the 2017 Ford Escape SUV that allude to the sporting event without outright saying it. The campaign, "We are All Fans," features a man spinning with a pommel horse on top of an Escape and a weightlifter putting boxes into her car. Ford is also sponsoring a Snapchat lens that turns users red, white and blue and has confetti falling on them. 

General Mills and Google both show various competitions like water polo or gymnastics-all performed by non-humans. For the cereal brand, real rabbits-a reference to the Trix mascot-hop around, race each other, or just hang out on a trampoline. It is meant to showcase that the company is taking fake colors and flavors out of its food. Google opted for something food-related with a minute-long animation about humanized fruit. After the pineapple blows the starting whistle, they are all off. Highlights include a handful of fruits trying to outrun the boulder-like watermelon rolling behind them, and a grape having fun riding only to be picked up and used as a water polo ball. Beyond the sport events, neither one has any "Olympic words" or visuals. 

Other brands are handling it differently. The athletic apparel company Oiselle started its own hashtag, "#TheBigEvent," to post on social media. Others are waiting until after August 24th to share videos and content. That date is when both the Olympics and the social media blackout period end. And one relatively small carpet cleaning company has decided to sue the large and deep-pocketed American Olympic Committee. 

And if your brand is trying to run a creative social media campaign based around the Olympics or some other big event, look no further than Giovatto Advertising. We are proficient at all forms of social media, from Twitter to LinkedIn, and tailor each post for all platforms so that no matter the medium, it sticks out. With our creative team and in-house studio, we can make any type of content, whether it be an informative article, a video, or something that works around an elephant in the room. And SEO practices ensure these posts get maximum reach. Get the most from your next social media campaign and contact Giovatto today!

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