Olympics vs. Twitter "Ambush"

Can you get into trouble for tweeting the 2010 Winter Olympics? Apparently so if you're not an official Olympic sponsor, as Red Bull and Verizon found out:

That is a violation of Olympics rules, which say advertisers that don’t pay the tens of millions of dollars an official sponsorship costs may not associate themselves with the Games or the athletes during the events or the weeks surrounding them.

“RT @henryyamamoto: Here’s an idea for next Winter Olympics: Get @RedBull to produce it instead of some ‘committee’ or NBC Sports #olympics,” Red Bull posted to Twitter last Wednesday, retweeting the post of another Twitterer. [...]

Olympics officials have long had their hands full policing traditional venues–such as TV, billboards and even on-the-ground Olympic sites–for so-called ambush marketing. The Twitter postings reflect the new complications the officials face as online marketing intensifies.

Lisa Baird, chief marketing officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee, declined to comment on specific examples but says nonsponsors are barred from referring to the Games and their athletes in name, likeness or imagery that evokes the Games in any media without a waiver from the committee.

“When people partake in this kind of ambush behavior, it hurts American athletes,” she says.

Won't someone think of the American athletes? Emily Steel of Wall Street Journal Blogs Digits has more: Link


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I would say this falls under freedom of speech. You can't tell a company that they can't even make reference to the Olympics in any context at all. Its not like they were using official logos and creating a commercial of actual athletes using their products on the ice or snow. The twitter tweets did not in any sense stand to confuse readers as to the nature of their connection to the Olympics.
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Twitter is complete anarchy, that's why they got all bent out of shape. TV advertising is on the outs, so it's more jealousy than anything else.

Hurting the athletes? ha!
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I really wonder what kind of tortured logic leads them to say that this "hurts American athletes." The Olympics are in theory a worldwide event, a celebration of human athletic prowess, and it's less than clear how a corporation that didn't pay tens of millions of dollars mentioning the "O-word" (which is thousands of years old) is the slightest bit detrimental to any athlete anywhere. If anything, the fact that McDonald's is a major sponsor of an event that's all about fitness should be shattering irony meters the world over.
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