Did you know that it’s possible to trademark hashtags? During the #Rio2016 Olympic Games, throwing a hashtag in front of a couple of words is risky business. The paranoia is setting in already. Can we use that hashtag as an example to tell others not to use it?!
Okay, so officially here’s the deal: During the blackout period from July 27th to August 24th, if your business is not an official sponsor of the 2016 Olympic Games — which we’re sure our clients are not because the only official sponsors are Coca-Cola, Verizon, P&G, and Mcdonald’s — then you cannot tweet about the 2016 Olympic Games because the USOC (U.S. Olympic Committee) deems certain words and phrases their intellectual property. The Olympic Committee will go to fantastic lengths to protect the rights of their corporate sponsors. We get it, if we had billions of dollars to invest in the games, we wouldn’t want anyone else talking about it and making it more difficult to cut through the noise online.
Air on The Side of Caution
GTMA has decided it’s best to eliminate any and all Olympic-related posting from our online vocabulary for the next month in order to protect our clients and ourselves. The good news is, you can say anything you’d like from your personal accounts, so if you’re bursting at the seams to shout “Go, Katie Ledecky! or #TeamUSA!!!” just keep it between friends and out of your business!
Below you’ll find a list of what you can and can’t say online about the Olympics as a business. *Information from Adweek and Team USA.
The Olympic Committee’s many prohibitions against business activity during the games:
1. Businesses can’t use any of the Olympics’ trademarked words or phrases. These terms include:
Gateway to gold
Go for the gold
Let the games begin
Pan Am Games
2. You can’t use terms that reference the location of the Olympics, such as:
Road to Rio
Road to Pyeongchang
Road to Tokyo
3. You must not use words that incorporate the word “Olympic,” such as Mathlympics, Aqualympics, Chicagolympics, Radiolympics, etc.
4. You can’t use hashtags that include Olympics trademarks such as #TeamUSA or #Rio2016.
5. You cannot use any official Olympics logos.
6. You cannot post any photos taken at the Olympics. (While not mentioned on the USOC’s brand guidelines site, this rule is mentioned in a letter written by USOC chief marketing officer Lisa Baird and obtained by ESPN.)
7. You can’t feature Olympic athletes in your social posts.
8. You can’t even wish them luck.
9. Don’t post any Olympics results.
10. You can’t share anything from official Olympics social media accounts. Even retweets are prohibited.
11. No creating your own version of Olympic symbols, “whether made from your own logo, triangles, hexagons, soda bottle tops, onion rings, car tires, drink coasters, basketballs, etc.”
12. “Do not host an Olympic- or Paralympic-themed contest or team-building event for employees.”
Our Lips Are Sealed
There you have it, folks. Pretty much everything you might want to say about the Olympics is off-limits. The banned words and phrases are an effort to deter ‘ambush marketing’, where non-sponsor companies might be able to gain leverage for their products or services through attention to these hashtags. Yes, it’s a bummer because we all want to talk about the games or simply send good luck wishes to Team USA, but we’re going to respect the rules and stick to blabbing on our personal accounts. Until then..go athletes competing in a once-every-four-years-international-competition-in-the-largest-South-American-country! (Pretty sure that meets their regulations)