Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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August 18, 2012

Implications & Developments for Social Media in Athletics: Rule 40 Beyond the London 2012 Games

The London Olympics was classified in many ways as being the “Social Olympics” with the increase presence of sponsors, athletes, athletic associations, and others using social media as a major platform for updates, pictures, and real-time coverage of the games. While there were many highlights from the US team, there were some crisis situations emerging from the games.  One in particular I think will not only impact many professional athletes, but will have an effect on collegiate athletes as well.

The issue I am talking about is about Rule 40 from the IOC, which focuses on the fact that athletes could not thank their sponsors during the games, but only thank the Olympic sponsors of the event.  Many of the track and field athletes took this initiative to Twitter in particular by launching a hashtag campaign #WeDemandChange.

Now, Michael Phelps has had to deal with this very issue recently due to a photo ad with Louis Vuitton.  The ad was released early, and there was some talk about whether or not this was a violation of the IOC rule, but according to Phelps’ agent, it is not a violation.

This raises an issue not only for future athletic events at the Olympic and professional sports community – but also for collegiate athletics.  Some are siding with the IOC, and others are saying that they like the fact athletes were using social media to bring about this issue to the mainstream media.

One of the main reasons this issue came about was the fact that many of the athletes coming to the games were not being sponsored by the Olympic sponsors.  Track and field athletes in particular do not make as much as other athletes like in basketball or football.  In track and field, the ones who are making money have to break world records or be #1 in their event – and most of these athletes are runners. Personally, this is one of the main reasons I decided to retire from track and field as a shot putter in 2006 – for a female thrower, it would have been extremely difficult to make a living competing as a professional athlete.

Will there be more restrictions due to these new trends with social media for collegiate athletes?  What about those associated with teams? The issue of free speech within the social media community has been a hot topic of discussion, and I think with this case involving Rule 40 and the IOC, I think we are going to see more of these initiatives being implemented at all levels of athletics across the board.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

Karen

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