The Olympics was, of course, a massive success for London and for the whole of the UK. The sense of pride and unity which it has brought to the country looks set to leave a lasting legacy as does its impact on the next generation of sportsmen and women. Its effects are also likely to be felt in the advertising we see on a day to day basis for some time to come.
Of course we are all familiar with the official partners, suppliers and sponsors of the London Olympics and much has been made of the rules surrounding the use of words and images associated with the Games. However, many people will be unaware of the restrictions placed on athletes prohibiting them from allowing their person, name, picture or sports performance to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympics. Known as Rule 40 (on account of the fact that the restriction flows from a Bye–law to Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter), this prohibition has come under criticism from certain Olympic athletes who feel it hurts their financial prospects resulting in a Twitter campaign under "#wedemandchange".
Whilst the Rule 40 restrictions did not apply to advertising by the official partners, suppliers and sponsors of the Games they did, until recently, apply to any other advertising, including advertising by the athletes' individual or team sponsors.
The restrictions around advertising and marketing connected to the Olympics have been a minefield for companies such as Grace Foods UK, a leading supplier of Caribbean foods, and sponsor of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, winner of the Women's 100m gold medal. Rule 40 further complicated matters and meant that any advertising connected with Shelly-Ann had to wait for the conclusion of the Games. The stakes for athletes who intentionally flouted or misinterpreted Rule 40 were potentially catastrophic, with the ultimate sanction being disqualification from the Games. Nevertheless, as the Olympics are now over, at least for the next 4 years, the Rule 40 restriction has been lifted and companies can again start to use the images of the athletes they sponsor without fear of reprisal under Rule 40.
The question remains, in this era of corporate sponsorship for the Games and for athletes, is it still tenable to have such a stringent restriction on athletes who compete in the Olympics and who potentially rely on their sponsors to survive and continue in sport.