With the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio coming up in August, Bob Costas and the Olympians aren’t the only ones who should be preparing to take part in the summer fun. Leveraging the excitement of the Summer Olympics for your email marketing campaigns is a golden way to reach your subscribers.

Before you start planning Olympic-themed email campaigns, however, it’s important to know there are a handful of rules governing the use of Olympics terms, logos, themes, etc., and any infringement could not only get you kicked off the medal podium but in deep water.

This post will give you an overview of the rules to follow, and offer some creative ways you can participate in the excitement of the summer games all while still complying with copyright and trademark rules.

Disclaimer: This post is not a substitute for being familiar with the governing rules and is meant only as an overview for marketers.

An overview of the rules

To start off on the right foot, it’s important to know that you cannot use any intellectual property of the Olympic Games and/or Paralympics, or even imply that your event/advertisement/promotion is part of the official Rio 2016 games. This specifically prohibits the use of the following (both for the current games and any games from the past):
• The Official Rio 2016 Olympic branding including logos, symbols, expressions, and more
• The Official Rio 2016 Paralympic branding including logos, symbols, expressions, and more
• The Olympic rings
• The Paralympic Agitos
• The Olympic motto
• The Olympic creed
• The Paralympic motto
• The Paralympic creed
• The Olympic flame
• The Paralympic flame
• Historical images (logos of previous games, mascots, pictograms, etc)
• The Look of the games
• Mascots
• Pictograms
• Posters
• Medals
• Torches
• Official products and merchandise
• Publications and audio visual products
• Official designations and expressions (“Olympics,” “Olympic Games,” “Rio 2016,” etc.)
• Brazilian Olympic Committee and Brazilian Paralympic Committee brands
• Official commercial or non-commercial Rio 2016 brands
• Rule 40 states that “Except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic or Paralympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performance to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games.” This rule is also in place for 15 days before and after the event.

Keep in mind that the IOC supports discussion and debate about games, but they do require that you follow guidelines and not infringe on any of the rights of the official sponsors.

For a more comprehensive guide of all the rules and regulations, see the official Brand Protection Guidelines.

Do’s and don’ts of summer games email marketing

With all of these rules, it may seem a bit tricky to launch a solid campaign. Thankfully, with a bit of creativity, you still have a ton of marketing options. And, considering 59% of people use a smartphone while watching the Olympics, your incoming email messages, that are totally on topic, are bound to be received well. Here are some ideas to help you.

Beat the clock promotion

­Do: Consider putting a countdown clock on your shop, website, and even embedding one in your email. Let your subscribers know that you will only be running the sale until time is up. This promotes a sense of excitement and urgency, prompting your customers to buy.
Don’t: Call it an Olympics Countdown. Remember, the use of the word “Olympics” in any of your promotions is strictly prohibited.

Highlight the new

Do: Did you know that the popular sports of Kite Surfing and Sevens Rugby are new to the summer games this year? Use the excitement around this newness to introduce your own new announcements.

Don’t: Use the Olympics to promote your new products or services in any way.

Opening ceremony event

Do: Invite your subscribers to participate in an event while the opening ceremony kicks off. Provide extra incentive by giving everyone a special discount that mentions this year’s theme.

Don’t: Sponsor any unofficial Rio 2016 broadcasts of the Opening Ceremonies.

Draw attention to women in sports

Do: Highlight stellar achievements by women in sports. Everyone loves stories about spectacular women in the games, and highlighting their achievements is a great way to create some uplifting content for your subscribers.

Don’t: Use any specific athlete, coach, or trainer for advertising of your products and services.

Host a medal sale

Do: Promote a summer sale and offer 3-tiered pricing (Bronze, Silver, and Gold) with your own fun and unique imaging.

Don’t: Call it an Olympic Medals Sale or use any images of current or previous medals.

Follow up with a podium sale

Do: Follow up on your Medal Sale with a Podium Sale. There will be plenty of your subscribers who loved your Medal Sale and want to take part again. You may also reach subscribers that missed your first sale and want a chance for extra discounts. You can present your discounts on a podium with 1st place pricing, 2nd place pricing, and 3rd place pricing.

Don’t: Use the faces of any Olympic athletes or call it an Olympics Sale.

Go update crazy

Do: Provide fun updates…about your brand’s latest happenings and the recent happenings of the games. It’s perfectly acceptable to report if you are not promoting.

Don’t: Run a marketing campaign to get your brand associated with the Olympics.

Scorecard discounts

Do: Offer a mystery sale where a subscriber clicks on your offer to reveal a score that determines the percentage off he or she will receive.

Don’t: Use any Olympics images or have the sale refer to the Olympics in any way.

Sports theme

Do: Use sports in general to promote relevant products and/or activities. If your business is tied to a specific summer sport, this is the perfect option.

Don’t: Try and tie your products into the Olympics, or use the Olympics to promote your product.

Get interactive

Do: Send content that is interactive. This includes asking fun questions, using polls, post pictures of your employees/products/services playing sports and having fun. You can extend this idea into your social strategy as well.

Don’t: Encourage Olympic themed responses from your subscribers or community.

Get expressive and be original with your Subject Lines

Do: Coin your own fun sizzling summer subject lines that show support of summer sports.

Don’t: Give specific expressions of support or plagiarize any copyrighted Olympic terminology.

Be competitive

Do: Remember that everyone is hyped up about the games, and you should do everything in your power to put yourself ahead of your competitors. Additionally, you can use this competitive spirit to run your own fun competitions.

Don’t: Run a competition for Olympics tickets.

Wrap up

The Olympics are almost here and now is the time to think about how to launch a great summer campaign. As you prepare your email strategy, remember you can use the excitement around the Olympics for your content; you just can’t infringe on any specifically laid out and defined copyrights and trademarks.

Good luck and may your email marketing be medal worthy!