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Olympic Shackles: Be Careful About Social Media Posts

Olympics Social Media


I found myself wildly shouting at my television the other night cheering on Lilly King, the West Side Evansville native and Olympic newcomer, as she neared the end of her race.

She, of course, took the gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke competition.

But I couldn’t post any congratulations on any of the Calibre Computer Solutions’ social media channels – unless I wanted the strong arm of the International Olympic Committee’s legal team threatening me.

Millions of people watch the Olympics.  It’s a hot topic of discussion almost everywhere you go.

Businesses naturally want to tie into Olympic fever.  But all companies, even small town shops, have to be extremely careful about how and what they communicate.

The United States Olympic Committee warns: “Do not create social media posts that are Olympic themed, that feature Olympic trademarks, that contain Games imagery or congratulate Olympic performance unless you are an official sponsor as specified in the Social Media Section.”

Violations will most likely get you a letter demanding you remove such content.  Failure to do so could result in costly legal action against your business.

Adweek Magazine recently published a summary of forbidden activity by businesses during the Olympics:

  1. Businesses can’t use any of the Olympics’ trademarked words or phrases.These terms include:
  • Olympic
  • Olympian
  • Team USA
  • Future Olympian
  • Gateway to gold
  • Go for the gold
  • Let the games begin
  • Paralympic
  • Pan Am Games
  • Olympiad
  • Paralympiad
  • Pan-American
  1. You can’t use terms that reference the location of the Olympics, such as:
  • Road to Rio
  • Road to Pyeongchang
  • Road to Tokyo
  • Rio 2016
  • Pyeongchang 2018
  • Tokyo 2020
  1. You must not use words that incorporate the word “Olympic,” such as Mathlympics, Aqualympics, Chicagolympics, Radiolympics, etc.
  2. You can’t use hashtags that include Olympics trademarks such as #TeamUSA or #Rio2016.
  3. You cannot use any official Olympics logos.
  4. You cannot post any photos taken at the Olympics.
  5. You can’t feature Olympic athletes in your social posts.
  6. You can’t even wish them luck.
  7. Don’t post any Olympics results.
  8. You can’t share anything from official Olympics social media accounts. Even retweets are prohibited.
  9. No creating your own version of Olympic symbols, “whether made from your own logo, triangles, hexagons, soda bottle tops, onion rings, car tires, drink coasters, basketballs, etc.”
  10. “Do not host an Olympic- or Paralympic-themed contest or team-building event for employees.”


Some businesses, like Seattle-based Brooks Running Company, who sponsors a dozen Olympic athletes, find ways to creatively challenge the IOC’s rules. 

In July at the Olympic track and field trials in Oregon, Brooks hired trucks to drive around with generic messages that read “Good luck, you know who you are, on making it you know where.”

So how can your business join in on the popularity of the Olympics?

Experts advise, “Very carefully.”  Think creatively and outside the box.

What do you think of the IOC’s stringent rules?  Send me an email at