Olympic Athletes, Rock Stars, and the Challenges of Sponsorship

I know – been a long time.  Happy to be back.  Promise to be more prolific.  On to the news…

Interesting quandary, this IOC Rule 40.  It’s part of the IOC’s Social Media, Blogging and Internet Guidelines, which you can download here.  Rule 40 is designed to protect the interests of the official Olympic event sponsors by precluding any athlete from allowing their name, picture or performance to be used for advertising purposes except as permitted by the IOC.  Were it not , however, for the athletes’ personal sponsors and the support those companies have provided over the years, many athletes – like those from the US and other nations that receive no federal support – would not be able to compete in the games.  Last time I checked, no athletes, no games.  Ad Age has a good piece on the topic.

Compare this to musical artists with tour sponsors.  Or more accurately, rock stars, since they are the only artists that can typically attract corporate sponsorship.  The venues they play, which are generally large because that’s how rock stars roll, also have sponsors since that’s the only way they can make money – the rock stars often take +/-100% of the gate, leaving the venue with over-priced beer, parking, and sponsorship as their only sources of revenue.  Since both sides typically guarantee sponsors category exclusivity, sometimes they conflict.  Only in this case, it’s the artist that usually wins.  No rock star, no show.

So what’s the upshot here?  As our collective media consumption continues to fragment, as engaging audiences becomes more and more difficult across multiple, often simultaneous screens, as social media and our nearly obsessive propensity to share transmits massive amounts of news and info around the world in the time it takes to press “send,” aligning with a sporting event or a rock star that captures the world’s imagination may seem like a good bet – a way to simplify a complex challenge.  It can be.  But nothing is that simple.  Just make sure you’re laying the right bets.