In 2016, Lift the Advertising Muzzle on Olympic Athletes

Dear Rio 2016:

Are you going to want the very best athletes to come to Rio? Do you want more new world records? Do you want more events than ever to captivate audiences? Then you will need to try to correct an Olympic-sized mistake that is hurting the competitiveness of the Games.

Thanks to Rule 40 of the Olympic charter, athletes can’t even so much as mention their sponsors during the Games, even in their private social-media communications — unless, of course, they are among the privileged minority funded by official Olympic sponsors. If they break this rule, they can actually be stripped of their medals.

This is where you folks come in. Can you try scrapping this nasty rule that cuts so many people off at the knees when they try to sponsor Olympic athletes? If your official sponsors are worried about having their brands sullied, guess what — there are a few hundred million Tweets out there potentially sullying them anyway. All this rule does is chase away sponsorships that can help put the best of the best in the arena.

The larger sponsorship problem can be fixed with the stroke of a pen. Lift the advertising ban and you lift the muzzle off Olympic athletes, and more of the best ones will be able to compete. Your official partners will still get to show their ads, brand themselves with their sponsored athletes and parade your endorsement in front of a billion or so people. In all likelihood, you’ll do even better financially than London did, and improve your own brand, in the process. Most importantly, you will get one huge bonus: better athletes and a better Games.

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