2012 Olympic Games’ Social Media Guidelines: Has The IOC Taken it Too Far?

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has set forth strict social media rules and guidelines not just for the athletes of the upcoming Olympic games but for the spectators as well!

In hopes of preventing both controversial posts and ticking off their official sponsors, such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, the IOC has set forth a four page policy that is both too restrictive and self-opposing.

Some of the guidelines restrictions include:

  • Athletes are restricted to tweeting in the first person in a diary-type format
  • Athletes are not permitted to post about the games as they happen, or comment on the activities of other participants
  • No videos are allowed to be shared from the Olympic village
  • Athletes must obtain permission before posting photos of other athletes
  • Participants are not to use the official Olympic symbol (the five interlaced rings) on any posts or images of any kind
  • Participants are only permitted to use the word “Olympic” within their social channels, blogs or other, if and only if they do not use the word in association with any third party person, product or service

As for spectators, they are permitted to take and post pictures to their hearts’ content, and though they are permitted to take video footage, they are forbidden to post any such videos to any social media channels.

Talk about a long list of restrictions – and I gave you the short version!

Recommended for YouWebcast: The Art of Community Development: Turning Brand Awareness Into Sales

So what’s wrong with all of these “guidelines”?

Though it is understandable that the IOC is attempting to limit the promotion of brands that are not official Olympics sponsors, they’re taking it too far. Not allowing athletes to tweet or share “behind the scenes” footage and experiences with their fans, not to mention not even permitting them to post about the games as they happen, is limiting to both the athletes and their fans.

An athlete is a personal brand and one of their most strategic marketing strategies is and should be social media. Connecting and engaging with their fans, sharing their exciting Olympic experiences and generating hype and excitement around the games themselves is all a part of the social fun – and, as I’ve said, plays a major role in their own self-promotion and creating awareness for their sport. Not to mention it would be extremely beneficial for the Olympic games themselves, which in-turn would benefit the IOC.

What do the athletes have to say?

“The IOC and NBC are running their business and doing what they can do make their business as profitable as it can be. As athletes, this is us running our business. They’re taking away from that, but it goes both ways.” – Ricky Berens, American swimmer told Mashable

“Why would you want to handicap a form of media that only increases exposure for your event? If you’re trying to make these the most watched Games in the history of the world, why would you take the people responsible for that history and say, ‘Hey, you can’t do that, you can’t share’? Limiting it seems so stupid.” – American Sprinter, Nick Symmonds told Mashable

Canadian marathoner Dylan Wykes told The Globe and Mail that “I find the IOC rules a bit bewildering […] I would’ve thought that these Games would offer a perfect opportunity for the IOC to work with the athletes to enhance exposure for the Olympic brand and each athlete’s ‘brand’ or profile through the use of social media and Twitter. I’ve never really received a clear explanation for the restrictions.”

“The IOC rules seem a little too strict and I think in future years we will look back and laugh at how strict they were,” said Canadian marathoner, Reid Coolsaet, to The Globe and Mail.

What do the fans think of these limiting guidelines?

What do you think of the social media guidelines set forth by the IOC?

Do you find these guidelines to be too strict and limiting, or do you think and agree that they’re in the better interest of the Olympic games? As a fan and spectator of the games, would you have enjoyed to receive “behind the scenes” exclusive coverage from your favorite athlete? I invite you to share your thoughts, disappointments or approvals with me below!

photo by: Department for Communities and Local Government

Comments: 8

  • Frank says:

    It amazes me how they say this is a social media Olympics yet there are more restrictions than there is competiting restrictions. And also why is there no Ortsbo? http://www.ortsbo.com they are a translation company that translate in real time. Whats the point of having a Social Media olympics if we cant even communicate with people in other languages? Ortsbo would allow someone who i English to communicate with someone else in 53 other languages in real time…

    • That would have been well planned out, yes. But what the IOC has taught us (if anything) is that they do not understand social media, so it makes sense that cool features such as Ortsbo haven’t been thought of…

      Thanks for your comment, Frank!

  • Megan says:

    It’s unfortunate that the IOC needs to put these guidelines in place to protect their brand. We will certainly miss the personal connection that makes the athletes seem human like the rest of us!

  • Brendan says:

    Great Post. Some of these guidelines are unbelievable. The connection between fans and athletes that social media gives us is one of the best parts about watching sports and athletics these days. It’s too bad the IOC is limiting social media for the participants. On a side note, thought your readers might like this http://olympics.postano.com/ Lets you follow multiple athletes and teams through the 2012 Olympics.

    • Hi Brendan,

      I completely agree! Social media is a major part of today’s Athletes’ marketing strategy, and the limitations and restrictions are just bewildering. All out of fear and a lack of comprehension.

      Thanks for sharing the link – I’ll be sure to check it out!

  • Brendan says:

    A great example to your point Melissa, of Athletes using social media as a marketing strategy…

    Supposedly last year, Thierry Henry put an Ad for Puma on his Facebook page “40% off Friends and Family Holiday discount” and it created 592 people to like it.

    Not sure it’s right to the Athletes who are performing in the Olympics, to limit their social media interaction. Thus, like you say, limiting their marketing strategy and potential earnings. Yet, it’s okay for Companies and Corporations to profit off of those same Athletes in this year’s games. Crazy!

    • That’s a good point, Brendan. That there are restrictions for the athletes, but not the brands. Though the IOC can’t put rules out for every brand in the world, they could have perhaps thought of this in fairness for the athletes, before developing their policy…

      Thanks for the great comment, Brendan!

Add a New Comment

Thank you for adding to the conversation!

Our comments are moderated. Your comment may not appear immediately.