Wednesday marked 100 Days until the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympic Games. We decided it was time to break down key components of the official IOC (International Olympic Committee) social media policy – particularly for athletes.
Although social media use is ‘encouraged’, there are crucial restrictions that apply to athletes, as well as accredited officials, in regards to posts. If you are a volunteer make sure you read all of the limits on posts specific to your situation here.
“The IOC encourages participants and other accredited persons to post comments on social media platforms or websites and tweet during the Olympic Games, and it is entirely acceptable for a participant or any other accredited person to do a personal posting, blog or tweet.”
Some of the more notable limitations include a ban on video or audio posts from inside Olympic venues, as well as a ‘no comment’ on competition, or promotion of sponsors.
Major Challenges of the Social Media Policy
There are three major challenges with the policy that athletes should consider. View the full Social Media Policy of what athletes/accredited participants can and can’t do.
#1: Athletes commenting on personal results / mentioning competitors
“Any such postings, blogs or tweets must be in a first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist – i.e. they must not report on competition or comment on the activities of other participants or accredited persons, or disclose any information which is confidential or private in relation to any other person or organisation.”
What I interpret this to mean, is although an athlete might be allowed to post on social networks, they have to be very careful on what they share – especially in regards to their own competition and results. You can’t even mention a competitor even if it might be to congratulate them. It is interesting to note however, accredited media personnel are allowed to report on competition updates. And athletes and participants can share ‘official tweets’ – including those from approved media. I am unsure if this means athletes could however share ‘official tweets’ about their own performance, as this is something of a grey area.
Sample Policy in action: Currently I compete in the sport of beach volleyball (Australia). The Olympic format will consist of pool play, then semi-finals and finals. For example, let’s say I am selected for the Australian Olympic team and am nominated to participate/play at the games (after a long, hard road filled with years of sweat and tears). I do all of the right things, win all of my games in my pool and finish in the top position at the games leading into the semi-final. I then quickly post/tweet/blog this: “Won our games against China, USA. Next up the Brasilians. Game on! Going to go grab a refreshing protein shake to charge up before next game.. [insert /tag friend/competitor].”
My post is then reported by another team who deem it a clash with the policy. As it is directly related to competition and the activities of other participants – yes, it’s official, I have just broken the IOC social media policy. Even though journalists might have already reported on my win or what I did post-game this is irrelevant. So what happens next? I get a few retweets and all of a sudden I’m in trouble. What are the ramifications of me making such a post in the early stages of competition? Do I get disqualified or possibly even banned from playing in any further Olympic competition?
In brief, yes, it is quite possible I could have my accreditation withdrawn, and not be allowed to compete further. This is an extreme case scenario of course,and in reality it would be most likely I was first asked to take down any content that was deemed in breach. But here’s the best part – one of my competitors at the games could choose to report me in an attempt to get my accreditation removed, hence possibly removing me completely from the competition.
The IOC has asked anyone if they see any breaches of the policy to let them know. And lets face it, most athletes keep their friends close but their enemies (top competition) closer especially in social media networks as it is so easy to monitor their activities. So it is highly likely most athletes will have access to their competitors’ news feeds.
Back to the hypothetical situation where my fate is in the hands of the IOC. I am also now in trouble with my own National Olympic Committee. Even though I remove my post it is officially deemed a breach of the policy and I am no longer not only allowed to post, but also compete further in the games. My opposition gets a free ride into the final due to my social ‘slip-up’. Ouch. I love my twitter followers,and keeping them in the loop, but this is an athlete’s ultimate goal we are talking about. After all the effort and energy put in to get there, it would be an absolute tragedy to get banned for making a comment online. Leave it to those who can’t get stopped from competing or attending in any way.
See Section 13 (Infringements) “The accreditations of any organisation or person accredited at the Olympic Games may be withdrawn without notice, at the discretion of the IOC, for purposes of ensuring compliance with these Guidelines. The IOC reserves all its right to take any other appropriate measures with respect to infringements of these Guidelines, including issuing a Take Down Notice, taking legal action for damages, and imposing other sanctions.
Participants and other accredited persons may also be subject to additional guidelines and sanctions in respect of social media, blogging and the internet, from their relevant NOC.”
My suggestion: REFRAIN from posting anything to do with your performance, at ALL. Or mention your friends. Or competitors. (And monitor your competitors online activities accordingly/report any of your less-informed direct competitors who break the social media policy to the IOC.)
#2: Looking after personal sponsors without breaching the commercial or advertising guidelines
See Clause 2 – Postings, blogs and tweets
“The IOC actively encourages and supports athletes and other accredited persons at the Olympic Games to take part in ‘social media’ and to post, blog and tweet their experiences. Such activity must respect the Olympic Charter and must comply with the following. As a general rule, the IOC encourages all social media and blogging activity at the Olympic Games provided that it is not for commercial and/or advertising purposes and that it does not create or imply an unauthorised association of a third party with the IOC, the Olympic Games or the Olympic Movement.”
So this now leads me to clause 8, Advertising and Sponsorship.
“Participants and other accredited persons are not permitted to promote any brand, product or service within a posting, blog or tweet or otherwise on any social media platforms or on any websites. Participants and other accredited persons must not enter into any exclusive commercial agreement with any company with respect to their postings, blogs or tweets on any social media platforms or on any websites, unless they have obtained the prior written approval of their relevant NOC.”
In other words, if an athlete is already sponsored – which most likely are as funding an Olympic campaign is ridiculously expensive – if they want to mention/showcase their partners during the games they need to get approval from their National Olympic Committee first. This means I couldn’t even say thanks to my team online (unless I already had prior approval.) . Oh yeah – and that applies to coaches and trainers too. And don’t think you can sneak branding in through images either volunteers!
My suggestion: If you have any personal sponsors, list them all and submit the relevant details to your NOC. Then at least if you do decide to post pictures of yourself with any of your partners, technically you shouldn’t get in trouble.
#3: Audio,Video is OUT (inside all Olympic venues). Restricted still images are IN
Clause 3: Athletes or participants may post still images of still photographs taken within Olympic Venues for personal use. It is not permitted to commercialise, sell or otherwise distribute these photographs. Participants and other accredited persons cannot post any video and/or audio of the events, competitions or any other activities which occur at Olympic Venues. Such video and/or audio must only be for personal use and must not be uploaded and/or shared to a posting, blog or tweet on any social media platforms, or to a website.
Again, for the purpose of this article, lets use me as an example. My mum flies over from Australia, she videos me playing in the semi-final on her iPhone, then posts the video on Facebook and tags me in it. Even though my mum is not a participant, I am assuming she would be classified as an accredited person. If I approve the video on my wall or news feed am I and my mum in breach of the policy? Quite possibly. Not sure how they will police this unless they plan on removing everyone’s iPhones or Androids at the entrance.Which they sadly might.
However, if we look further in Clause 3, we discover that video and/or audio that are taken outside of Olympic Venues are not subject to the above – noted restriction.
In other words an athlete can film themselves outside the venue and post this no problems – even if the Olympic signia is in the background… OR just for fun, lets say we were a very creative media team and had access to a cherry picker – technically you could film activities happening inside Olympic grounds from outside the grounds, and then post this no problems? Hmmn. My question is, would a still photo of an athlete,inside the Olympic village, wearing their own (sponsored) clothing or promoting/using a certain product be classified as commercial/advertising?
My suggestion: Post sparingly. Well sure you could post from outside the venue, but if you make it to the Olympics I think you would most definitely want to really to show proof from inside the venue. You should be ok to post a picture of yourself in a team uniform, with no other products in the shot. But I’d still be wary of having the Olympic logo in any image.