Who: International Olympic Committee (IOC), German Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt), German Olympic Committee (DOSB)
When: 27 February 2019
Law stated as at: 14 March 2019
The advertising restrictions on German athletes and their sponsors have been eased ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, as a result of the Bundeskartellamt’s ruling to relax Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter in Germany.
Rule 40 states: “except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games.”
The Bundeskartellamt launched administrative proceedings against the DOSB and the IOC for “suspected abuse of a dominant position.” The IOC generates billions of dollars from the Olympics, and Rule 40 has been seen to protect the rights of the IOC’s own Olympic sponsors.
The Bundeskartellamt ruling was undertaken in consultation with the European Commission, and concluded that the application of Rule 40 in Germany by the DOSB constitutes ‘abusive conduct’ under European Union law.
This means that now, during the Olympics, German athletes and their sponsors no longer need to obtain permission from the DOSB for their advertising activities beforehand; they can include terms such as “medal, gold, silver, bronze, winter or summer games”; they have more freedom to advertise on social media; and they may use certain photographs taken during the Olympics.
Why this matters:
Most athletes rely on their visibility during the Olympics to generate sponsorship and advertising revenues, but have previously been restricted by Rule 40. Therefore, the relaxation of Rule 40 could result in a significant new marketing opportunity for both athletes and brands in Germany.
The Bundeskartellamt ruling has only resulted in a change that is applicable in Germany but is possible that challenges against Rule 40 in other jurisdictions will be made as the German ruling was made in consultation with the European Commission.