The U.S. Olympics Committee has always had a pretty hard core control fetish, and this year that reaches all the way to Twitter. The organization plans to crack down on non-sponsors mentioning this year’s summer games—and that includes using trademarked hashtags such as #TeamUSA and #Rio2016. It’s almost like the USOC borrowed its rule book from Fight Club*.
The USOC has been sending letters to companies that aren’t official event sponsors telling them they can’t post anything on Twitter about the Olympics, or even reposting anything from the @Olympics Twitter account. ESPN said the letter also warns companies that aren’t media-related to skip making any mention of game results or using photos taken at an Olympics event.
That also applies to companies sponsoring athletes that aren’t also official Olympics sponsors. The USOC isn’t prohibiting companies from sponsoring athletes at the Olympics; instead, they can’t mention the event and the athletes can’t mention the companies sponsoring them.
The USOC’s Twitter ban doesn’t apply to individuals—at least not yet—but that’s not much consolation for businesses wanting to support the athletes financially or in spirit. Bob’s Burgers, for example, can’t tweet, “Awesome track win! Go #TeamUSA!” without facing the wrath of the USOC.
Banning any mention of the Olympics shows just how disconnected the USOC is from social media. Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks are communication superhighways where everyone shares in events in real time, and the Olympics won’t be any different.
USOC chief marketing officer Lisa Baird said, “We need to give sponsors exclusivity to our intellectual property that is protected by U.S. law.” That makes sense, but there’s also a difference between using Olympics games for self promotion and retweeting a post from @Olympics.
The genie has already escaped the social media bottle, and the USOC can’t put it back in. That said, it’s a safe bet the organization is going to try.
Want to hear more thoughts on the USOC’s tweet ban? Check out today’s TMO Daily Observations podcast.