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BizReport : Internet : July 28, 2016

Advertisers - beware the Olympics-related hashtag(s)

Wben is a Tweet not a Tweet and, in fact, an ad? That's a question that needs to be answered when it comes to the United States Olympic Committee's recent stance on hashtags.

by Helen Leggatt

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has recently advised advertisers that sponsor athletes, but who don't pay to sponsor the USOC or International Olympics Committee (IOC), that they must stop using hashtags on their social media accounts that refer to the Olympics, such as #Rio2016 or #TeamUSA.

The USOC also has rights on the hashtags #Olympic, #Olympian, #Future Olympian, #Goingforthegold, #Goforthegold, and even #letthegames begin. And, according to Olympic brand usage guidelines "...any use of USOC trademarks on a non-media company's website or social media site is viewed as commercial in nature and consequently is prohibited...".

The reason for the USOC's action? Sponsors of athletes are not necessarily USOC or International Olympic Committee (IOC) sponsors. Unless a company has a business relationship with one or both committees, they may end up in court.

So, where does that leave brands and companies who wish to comment on the Olympics, wish an athlete luck, or generally discuss the event? Maybe do what some other brands have done and use another phrase as a hashtag, such as #TheBigEvent or finding other creative ways of referencing #Rio2016.

Tags: law and regulation, Olympics, social media, sporting events, trademark

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